In the summer of 2017, hundreds of hungry children in rural Appalachian Tennessee waiting anxiously each weekday to hear their favorite sound. And no, it wasn’t the ring of the bell of an ice cream truck loaded with sweet treats for sale on a hot summer’s day.
In fact, the sound they were listening for was the sound of the big diesel engine of a school bus, not coming to take them to school, but instead bringing them a filling, nutritious meal, which sadly for many would be their only substantial meal of the day.
Our partner Of One Accord, serves lunch to hundreds of children living in impoverished Hawkins County, among the poorest in the state, and through its “Lunch Box” bus summer feeding program, a total of 12,464 meals were served in 2017.
The Lunch Box bus program is unique! A former “retired” school bus is converted into a mobile cafeteria where children get on the bus and eat their lunch with their siblings and friends, just as they do on a school day. The seats are turned facing each other with a cafeteria table in between allowing seating for 15 or more children to all eat at one time.
In 2006, Of One Accord was the first ministry in the U.S. to put the concept of bringing lunch to children in rural areas where offering a summer meals program at a centralized location is not practical or feasible, according to Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay.
The four Lunch Box buses will serve an average of 320 children daily, with each bus making a total of 32 regular stops each day. This summer it is projected to serve 14,500 meals, from June 4 to July 27.
“The key for success is having to be consistent and to be at each location at exactly the same time each day for children to be able to depend on the bus coming,” he explained.
The need was great for such a program in the area. Hawkins County was among the last counties in the state that did not have a summer feeding program in place for school-age children, according to Rev. Livesay.
He told us that when the school system attempted to offer a summer lunch program, it didn’t work because the vast majority of children did not live within walking distance of the school; in the rural communities it was too far and too costly for parents to drive them to get a free lunch.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program funds the cost of the food, and we help to cover the cost of program expenses needed to run the operation. “Through the amazing help of Americans Helping Americans®, we were not only able to place two more buses on the road, but they are being sustained as a program through the support of Americans Helping Americans® raising the number of children served from 8,500 to 14,500,” Rev. Livesay said.
However, he added, “The sad note is we have children who board the bus who attest this is the first meal they have had since the day before, and we have even heard on a Monday, this was a child’s first meal since the Friday before.”
Technology has a foothold in every aspect of today’s society but many children in the heart of Appalachia are getting left behind as for their parents a computer and internet service is simply a “luxury” they cannot afford. Last year, Americans Helping Americans® launched a pilot program to bridge the digital divide and supplied 24 elementary students in Beattyville, Kentucky with desktop computers for use at home. Because of the great success of the program, we saw the children improve their grades on assignments and keep in touch via email with their teachers on days they were sick or school was closed due to inclement weather! Feedback from teachers is that the computers provided to the students allowed the children to further educate themselves and research topics of interest to them. The students were able to get deep into a topic, gather more details, and use that information to support their answers with low-cost internet service in a partnership between the school and AT&T.
The students love to learn with computers. It’s fun for them! They can play online learning games to help with lessons and they become more tech savvy! Americans Helping Americans® is extremely proud of the students’ accomplishments and this year we were able to send an additional 30 computers to new students!
Among the 75 letters from children requesting their reason for needing a computer are:
“Most of the time I struggle on tests, but with this computer, I could study much more fluently and do better on tests.” – Kalib
“One way in which a computer would be beneficial to me is to be able to work on my online school problems. I could work on my Lexia, to build on my reading and math comprehension. I could do my Moby Max, an online max and reading program. I could study islands which helps learn about social studies.” – Kaison
“My first reason is teacher communication. I could e-mail questions if I am having trouble with my work. I could complete assignments that I have missed if I was ill. I could also facetime or skype my teachers if I need to.” –Allyson
Americans Helping Americans® is proud of your support to our programs like this! We hope to provide computers to entire schools and train the next generation of tech-savvy children in the years to come so they can have bright futures and sharp minds. Computer Science opportunities are always increasing and who knows, maybe you helped the next Bill Gates get their very first computer.
Leslie joined the L.A.M.P program because she was failing school.
“Nobody cared, so why should I” she questioned.
But at L.A.M.P she did find people who cared- plenty of them.
With that realization, her life would change forever.
I have a mentor who helps me and expects to do good,” she says.
“She explains stuff – school stuff, but life stuff too.”
“I never knew I was worth anything before,” she adds.
Without strong positive intervention, a girl like Leslie has more than a 70 percent chance of dropping out of school and being a homeless unwed mother who spends time in jail or prison.
Your help is changing Leslie’s life and through her friends and siblings.
And Leslie can attest to that.
A brother and sister who were taken from the mother by the state due to neglect and abuse went to live in their aunt’s home. Shortly after, the aunt’s husband, the family’s sole breadwinner, had a massive heart attack and had to stop working.
They were having a very hard time but managed to keep going. They were so grateful for the computer. It not only made a great Christmas gift, but it helped the children with homework and school projects.
The children love using their computers. Having one in the household has been a boon to the entire family as well.
In addition, computers have not only been beneficial in homework for the students, but also several parents attended a computer class. The parents learned how to do resumes, use the internet, use Word and Excel, and many other programs including taking online courses.
The students benefitted from having the computer during NTI (non-traditional instruction) days. This happens when the weather is bad and also if they are out for school-wide illness. Students are able to get online and do assignments while teachers can watch them from school or home.
And the list of benefits of having a computer in the home only continues to grow.