It is increasingly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long and profoundly difficult period for humanity. While the daily news is full of disheartening statistics about worldwide hardship, it is vital in these moments to recall the power and importance of community. Together, we can overcome anything.
Here at A Chance In Life, we are seeing the results of our community in action. We called upon you to lend your support to provide 3,000 meals per month to our vulnerable children and their families for the duration of this crisis, and many of you have answered that call. This has allowed our program staff to put together two weeks of emergency food supplies for our young people in Guatemala living with HIV/AIDS, whose compromised immune systems put them at increased risk for serious complications from COVID-19 and other viral infections. Regular, nutritious meals are essential to their survival. Thank you for your crucial support in getting supplies to them quickly and efficiently.
But as the crisis endures, so do the needs of our young people everywhere. For those of you who have not yet made a gift, we ask that you give as generously as you can to protect and feed our vulnerable children. A donation of $50 can provide meals to a young person for a month. You can also choose to renew your gift each month automatically, to ensure we can protect our children for the duration of this pandemic.
For those of you who have already contributed to our #monthofmeals campaign, we thank you. Can you consider making a second gift as we enter the second month of this crisis?
We are proud of A Chance In Life's ability to launch an immediate response to the urgent humanitarian needs of our children, and to already be providing food supplies to affected families in Colombia (see photo above) and India. Thank you for helping make this possible, and being an integral part of our incredible community.
Claire W. Gallagher
Vice President of Development
Our programs around the world are facing an unprecedented challenge of caring for our children after they've been sent home after worldwide school shutdowns. Watch the video message above from our program staff in Cuilapa, Guatemala or read the transcript below for their report on the situation. If you can, please support and share our #MonthofMeals campaign here to make sure the children of our programs around the world have the food they need to make it through this crisis.
As you can see, friends and donors, you just saw the empty facilities of the Home for Girls.
We are especially preoccupied for our girls because their basic needs are covered here at the home, as they come from very needy backgrounds and the services available here are not available in their families or with their caregivers.
We are especially worried about the current situation in our country and other countries abroad.
We want to let you know that when we handed over our girls to their families or caregivers, it was really difficult. Before our girls left this home, we generously shared with each a bag of food supplies so they can cover the basic needs of nutrition for these days. At the same time, we are ready to provide any kind of support according to their needs during this time while they are away from this home.
We also want to let you know that it is up to us to comply with all the government requirements. We have tried to fully comply with the government laws, following carefully the guidelines received: keeping calm, being together, and for us, praying.
Thank you for your support, thank you so much for what you have done for us, for our girls and for our boys.
As you know, we have public school here for children living in the surroundings. For all the children attending the school, due to the suspension of the academic activities, the school has opened a tutoring program for the children. Because this is not school break time, academic activities are suspended but the schoolteachers have provided the children at home with homework.
Many thanks and blessings to you all.
On behalf of A Chance In Life, my children and I have an urgent message to share about our ACIL kids in Italy, Ethiopia, India and Latin America.
P.S. I am also honored to report that out of more than 9,000 rated organizations, we have been named by Charity Navigator as one of the top six recommended charities providing community support and services in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
First and most importantly, in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that is affecting our lives in such a tremendous way, I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.
I am writing to you today with an urgent request for help to support the children in our programs affected by COVID-19.
As you know, A Chance In Life works with the most vulnerable communities in Italy, Ethiopia, India and Latin America. We are committed to continuing our work helping at-risk youth in these deeply challenging times.
But as COVID-19 spreads rapidly across international borders, we are facing extreme challenges. The virus has now reached countries with weak health care systems, which are unprepared to combat the disease. Vulnerable children and those living in poverty will be hit hard by this outbreak.
As of today, an unprecedented number of children, youth and adults are not attending schools or universities because of COVID-19. Governments in 119 countries have announced or implemented the closure of educational institutions in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease. This is enormously affecting our programs.
Please make an immediate donation of $50 or more to support our work and help us respond to the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. Your gift will help us provide urgent aid to at-risk children and their vulnerable families and support our work in more than 10 countries worldwide.
Your donation of $50 can help us provide nutritious meals for a child for a month in Ethiopia, India, Italy or Latin America.
Our goal is to provide 3,000 meals a month to the young people we support for the duration of this crisis. Together, we can ensure that even in times of uncertainty, the world’s most vulnerable children are not forgotten.
Please respond today. We will get through this crisis. Together, anything is possible.
With much gratitude,
For 75 years, A Chance In Life has served at-risk youth around the world. A Chance In Life currently provides care and an education to over 3,000 children a year in Italy, Ethiopia, India and Latin America. We have received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and Guidestar, the most-utilized evaluators of charities in the US.
“I am a bit nervous,” Bethlehem announced as the cameraman was getting ready with his equipment. The early morning light filtered through the window to shine on the walls of her parents' typical Ethiopian house made of mud and straw.
Raffaello, the director of the documentary we were filming in Ethiopia, asked me to chat with Bethlehem so she could relax before the interview.
Only forty-five minutes before, we had left our guesthouse a few kilometers away to drive to the house where Bethlehem, one of girls in our program, used to live. The abysmal roads were difficult even for our off-road vehicle. I imagined how, just five years ago, this frail young girl had walked on those roads in the sun, rain and pitch darkness just to go to school and to get an education.
Despite her determination, she had almost dropped out. The daily two-hour walk to reach her high school was becoming too daunting and tiring. There were many perils during her journey ... abduction by men and attacks by wild animals like hyenas. The books she carried on her head to look taller and chase away wild animals weren’t enough to reassure her anymore.
Then she received a chance in life ... she joined Boys' & Girls' Towns of Ethiopia (BGTE) alongside 100 young women like her and lived in a house near her school. Not only did she complete high school, she became one of the first BGTE graduates to finish college with a degree in Mathematics. Instead of looking for a job after graduating, the first thing she decided to do was to dedicate one full year of her life to others by volunteering in an orphanage.
The cameraman was almost ready, but still waiting for me to say something to Bethlehem. The first question that came to my mind to chat and reassure her was, “What was your favorite fairy tale as a child?” To my surprise, she said that she didn’t know any fairy tales.
“What do you mean? You never heard of fierce dragons keeping princesses in the highest towers and the charming princes who saved them?”
“Not really...” was her bemused response.
“I think that’s because you are already living in a fairy tale,” I replied quickly. “You were a princess imprisoned in a world that didn’t allow you to achieve your dreams. But you fought your dragons: poverty, hyenas, obstacles ... You climbed roads, fought against the wind and the rain and studied by the dim light of a candle. No Prince Charming saved you. You saved yourself, and now you are helping other children to do the same. This is the most amazing and beautiful story I have ever heard.”
Her bright smile showed how proud she was.
“We are ready to roll!” said the cameraman. “1, 2, 3 and go!”
“My name is Bethlehem. And this is my story...”
PS: If you wish to give a chance in life to more girls like Bethlehem, click below. There are still so many dragons out there … let’s fight them together.
Remembering Paula Cangialosi
The doorbell rang at 10:20 AM. From my office in the back I could hear the squeaky door hinges announcing some unexpected visitors.
“Hello!”, someone proclaimed. Seconds later, a barking dog ran into my office. He jumped up on the sofa and looked around.
“Oh hello!”, I replied to him. “You must be a talking dog who knows this place very well.” But before I got too excited about my talented new four-legged friend, his owner appeared at my office door.
“No, unfortunately he doesn’t talk. Otherwise, I’d make him tell me why he’s always barking. My name is Paula, and this is my dog Joey. We used to be here often to visit the founder, Msgr. Carroll-Abbing. We have been involved with this organization for a very long time. I stopped by to welcome you in your new position. How may I help you?”
This happened about four years ago on one of my very first days with A Chance In Life. Paula Cangialosi came unannounced and unexpectedly into my life … and had a tremendous impact on the development of our organization.
On Monday, December 9th, our President and Executive Director Gabriele Delmonaco accompanied a delegation of A Chance In Life’s donors, board members and friends to a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. After listening to the welcome remarks of Mr. Guy Chiarello, ACIL's Man of the Year and major donor, Pope Francis addressed those assembled, saying, "I thank you for your sensitivity and concern for the least of our brothers and sisters. May God reward your passionate commitment and always accompany your efforts to build a world of greater fraternity." These words are also for you, our wonderful community of supporters. Thank you for helping us serve the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters for almost 75 years.
Pope Francis spoke of our founder Monsignor Carrol-Abbing's legacy and thanked those who made our work for children possible. Read his full remarks here. You can also read more about A Chance In Life's audience with Pope Francis in articles by Vatican News, Zenit and Osservatore Romano (In Italian, page 7).
The photo above is one of the lighter moments of my trip last month to northern Mexico. After the suffering I saw there, I was grateful to these children for giving me a chance to smile. Because of A Chance In Life's reputation as an advocate for vulnerable children, I had been invited by local organizations to explore possible partnerships in support of the children victims of ‘narco-trafficantes’. They offered me an all-expenses paid trip – including the cost of a bodyguard …
I want to share with you a brief note I wrote to the Chairman of our Board while I was in Mexico to give you an idea of what I experienced.
Dear Mauro, I hope all is well …
I am writing from Mexico. We are at the center of the area where the terrible killing of a family took place a few days ago.
The situation is very tense. While people try to get back to their daily routines, it is clear that the city of Chihuahua is under high alert. The news on tv constantly shows bulletins of people shot. Today, someone was shot outside my hotel. Yesterday, I was invited to a cultural event at the theater and hours later there was a fatal shooting right outside. It looks like a war zone.
Remember the old saying from the story of Francis Bacon in 1625? It says, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”
Fr. Jobi faced a similar problem. The elementary school he manages in the remote area of Pettikkal in India is surrounded by steep mountains. Several hundred families live in the jungle of this mountainous area and transportation is a challenge. Most families live in huts with no running water or sanitation systems. The crops they grow to survive is in constant danger from elephants, who come out in the evenings looking for food.
The Infant Jesus School was built to serve the local children and provide them with an education, but the journey down the mountain was still too far and dangerous. Fr. Jobi had a school, but no students could attend it. So, he decided to go to the mountain.
He raised the money to buy a school bus and makes his way to each family every morning and evening. That’s over 60 miles a day! Today, the school is filled with 150 little ones eager to learn and happy to receive a meal - oftentimes their only full meal of the day. The families are so grateful that they contribute whatever they can (about $3 a month) to help with the expenses of the school bus.
Now that the classes are filled, there is another problem. There are only four toilets to serve 150 children. Imagine 150 kids who need to go to the bathroom at the same time … how would you manage them?
Fr. Jobi needs six new additional bathrooms and asked A Chance In Life to help. I turn to you once again. Will you help me raise $11,500 to solve this problem? You do not have to come to the ‘mountain’ to make your donation - simply click below! With your help, the children of this poor school will feel quite … relieved!
Thank you for being such a loyal and generous donor. Know that our children, from Latin America to Asia and all that is in between, will always be grateful.
“I’d like to introduce you to someone special,” said Fr. Habte, the director of our programs in Ethiopia. “Fikre is 12 years old and one of our top-performing students,” he added while gently pushing a shy young woman through the door towards the group of donors I had accompanied to Emdibir.
Only a few months earlier, she had lost her father, an agronomist working for Fr. Habte, in a tragic car accident. Fr. Habte told us with tears on his face how Fikre’s father was bedridden in a hospital for several weeks before he finally surrendered to his injuries and passed away. In his final hours, he summoned Fr. Habte and begged him to take care of his two children and wife, who was fighting a battle against breast cancer.
Soon after his death, his family lost their house because they could not afford the rent. Fr. Habte received a plot of land as a donation and asked A Chance In Life if we could build a new house … a home for Fikre, her brother and her mother. In no time, donors like you raised the money necessary to restore hope to Fikre’s family and give her a chance in life.
Even after returning home to New York City, we continued receiving news of how the family’s new home had changed their lives. Fikre continues in the 8th grade as a citizen of Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Ethiopia, and her mother has a peaceful place to rest as she continues her fight against breast cancer. Fikre’s brother, who is autistic, has the structure and security he needs to feel safe and happy.
I am so proud of A Chance In Life’s family. Your commitment to our mission allows us to be an organization with both the heart to change the life of a single child, and the capacity to help entire communities flourish. Fikre is just one of over 3,000 children who have received a chance in life this year through our Towns in Italy, Ethiopia, India and Latin America. In the past year, we’ve also:
Next year will mark 75 years of serving at-risk youth, an achievement your generosity has made possible. Let’s celebrate the legacy of our visionary founder Msgr. John Patrick Carroll-Abbing with this important milestone. And let’s not forget what he said … "Until every child is free from hunger and suffering, we have no right to stop." On behalf of all of our citizens around the world - thank you!
Click to read A Chance In Life's 2018-2019 Annual Report.