One woman’s impact through generosity

Donna with a child in Sri Lanka

One woman’s impact through generosity

Donna with a child in Sri Lanka

In 1984, Donna Coroiescu and her husband left communist Romania with four small bags and two children who were only a few months old. Donna and her family came to the U.S. legally as Christian, political refugees.

In their first years in the country, Donna and her husband, Dinel, took on any jobs available. “I started cleaning houses, I cut grass, we painted,” said Donna. “We did anything and everything we could just to make something for ourselves.”

Dinel and Donna now own and operate D & D Roof Services, Inc., a top commercial roofing contractor in the U.S. Theirs is the story of the American dream as told in movies and myths.

“If you don’t believe that miracles happen today, I am one of the miracles,” Donna said, referring to her family’s journey and everything she has had to learn, including managing the company’s finances.

Helping Children in Moldova, India, Central Africa, and Sri Lanka

Donna has built a life without a blueprint. What her family owns today came despite the little help they received from strangers and the barriers they had to overcome. Donna has not forgotten the challenges that exist in other parts of the world like those she faced in her childhood. She has been incredibly generous as a donor and supporter of CERI for the last 20 years, traveling as often as four times a year to help children and their families in Moldova, India, Sri Lanka, and other countries.

Donna and CERI volunteers would visit three orphanages, a handicap institution, and three villages on their many trips to Moldova, delivering medicine and boots through truly personal connections. Today, Donna is passionate about supporting the work CERI does in India and Sri Lanka to empower women.

Empowered Women Empower Women

“Women and young girls – even as young as 6 years old – are abused … and I feel that we can teach those women that they don’t have to stay in that situation,” said Donna. She believes girls’ education and an understanding of their own strength will lead to their best futures.

“One of the things that’s really on my heart is the fact that women are considered just a necessity,” said Donna. She knows that women in many countries are told daily that they’re nothing more than an accessory to the men in their lives.

“I think that if we can teach women that the most important thing for their daughters is education – is teaching them to be strong – it will change their minds and their way of looking at life.” – Donna

In the future, Donna hopes to go on a medical mission to India or Sri Lanka and to continue connecting with people around the world, reminding them, especially women and girls, that they are strong and capable.

When asked which women are shaping history today, Donna mentions Elaine Hamilton, a friend of nearly three decades. “She is a very strong Christian woman, and her heart is into missions,” said Donna. “She’s been such a great example of a humble servant.”

Advocating for Children

Donna also sees history being made under the leadership of Connie Belciug, CERI’s Executive Director. “I love her dedication to help others – her heart and love for vulnerable children and women,” said Donna. “I’ve been with her on several mission trips, and I just love watching her interact with the women and children, and her passion for trying to work with the government to assure that those children get an education, have a better life, and have a roof over their head.”

It is not only women in the modern world that Donna admires for the history they have made. Biblical women, like Ruth, also shape Donna’s path in life. “What fascinates me about Ruth’s story is that she was just an ordinary woman – she didn’t have any wealth or position – but she was so brave and her faith was so strong,” says Donna.

Donna volunteering on a medical mission trip in India (2019)
Donna volunteering on a medical mission trip in India (2019)

A Christian Organization that Gives Back

The book of Ruth is only a few pages in the Bible, but within its four short chapters is a story that altered Christian history. Ruth’s son, Obed, was the grandfather of King David. In the lineage of Jesus Christ in Matthew, Ruth is one of only four women named in a list dominated by men. Ruth left her hometown to save her family’s legacy and its future. Without Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and to God, the lineage that led to Christ may have been very different.

“To me, her bravery, faith, and obedience can encourage us to be better followers of Christ,” Donna said.

Beyond Ruth’s story, the Bible is a guide to Donna’s life every day. It is the reason she donates her time and money to CERI. “Just the fact that God gave his son; it’s almost impossible for me not to give back,” she said.

Your generosity changes lives.

Join us in protecting childhood by providing support to women and children around the world.

A New Era of Community-Based Social Work – Lessons Learned from Impossible Odds

Grandmother with 2 children in India
Grandmother with 2 children in India

A New Era of Community-Based Social Work – Lessons Learned from Impossible Odds

Written by Ian Forber-Pratt

A little-known consequence of the pandemic has been government-mandated “rapid return” of children. Children in many residential homes were sent to their relatives or other kin, sometimes with only a few days of notice. For a child to grow up within their family of origin is always the ideal, yet these drastic changes with little preparation created serious risks for children. 

CAFO, in partnership with CERI, supported organizations in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, and Uganda experiencing this phenomenon firsthand. The local teams bravely delved into the complexity of working with families — some of them stunned, some grateful, some fearful — about the combination of a return of their children, a global pandemic, and their prior challenges remaining unchanged. The ten organizations worked with 207 children to ensure their childhood was protected.

One year later, 171 (83%) of these children were still with their families.

It’s important to note that these results are not necessarily representative of all rapid return situations. What they do suggest, however, is that — with critical oversight and support — many children in orphanages today can indeed be successfully returned to life with a family.

It hasn’t been easy. Week after week, teams would ask questions like “How do I convince the mother to accept her youngest daughter when she can’t feed the other three kids she has?” or “What about the deeper family issues, that are often so much more complicated than just the material lack?”  

Humanly, the odds seemed insurmountable. As time went on, the ten organizations began to notice a major thread: that healing began with “seeing” the entire family as a whole and then realistically starting with the most basic needs. 

Teams could not meet all of the families’ basic needs, let alone their doubts of inadequacy. Imagine sitting with a hungry family and not being able to guarantee where the next meal would come from? Yet, 171 children are still with their families.  How? The reality is that being WITH these families and communities was just enough to keep them on the journey to healing.  

At the end of a year, a handful of key takeaways rose to the top for this new era of community-based social work.

1. Family Well-Being Impacts a Child.

Organizations that serve vulnerable children should always  consider the entire family’s well-being whenever family can be found.  For some organizations, that may mean broadening their services.  For others, it means partnering with other organizations that offer services key to family well-being, from medical care to economic opportunity.

2. Ask Children and Families What They Need.

Children and families are the first voice we should be listening to regarding their strengths and needs. Understanding the family’s perspective of these things increases the likelihood of providing the most effective services.

3. Do Not Overlook Basic Needs.

“Basic needs” were reported more than any other in the current study. Additional services are vital, but if basic needs are not being sufficiently met, the impact of such efforts may be limited.

4. Times of Crisis May Call for Relief.

Establishing sustainable solutions in child welfare is important when providing services to vulnerable children and families. However, in times of crisis or emergency, providing relief in the form of short-term material support may be necessary.

5. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

Human beings do not trust on command; it takes time, authenticity, and intentionality. Sadly, traditional case management approaches and child ‘protection’ systems are often built for removal and transactionalization. Through monthly cohort meetings, we heard time and time again that just being WITH the families was the secret sauce to any success.

The global pandemic has brought with it countless challenges.  Often, the most significant impacts have been experienced by the most vulnerable members of society.  And yet, times of crisis can lead to innovation and learning with immense implications.  The lessons learned from this group of tireless leaders show that small efforts can make a big difference for children and families.

Family changes everything!

Help us support families so more children can have a place to call home. 

This blog originally appeared on the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO).

To Love and Learn: Being a Parent in Moldova

Moldovan foster parents with children
Moldovan foster parents with children

To Love and Learn: Being a Parent in Moldova

What do you like about being a parent? The answer is likely to change depending on the day, season, or most recent family vacation. Some days there is no answer. Most days there are many. Children grow, and what we see in them and what they reveal in us changes as often as they do.

When Aleasa, a mother of four in Moldova, was asked what she enjoys most about parenting, “learning from my children” was her answer. She likes that her children teach her everything from principles like patience, forgiveness, and compassion, to life lessons like how biology does not determine bond.

Aleasa and her husband had been married for several years before they realized they could not have children. They considered adoption, but it wasn’t until they learned of foster care that the couple stopped dreaming and started planning for what life could look like as a family.

Moldovan foster mom with children
Aleasa with four foster children (2021)

Aleasa met with Child Protective Services and other organizations that managed foster care. She started chatting with other foster parents. She and her husband attended trainings and even remodeled their home so that they could have enough space to give their future children a place to call home.

In 2010, Aleasa brought home her first child, Mircea, a little boy only 16 months old. The family of three grew together and grew close. Mircea was a sign. “After our first child was placed in our family, we knew we were on the right path,” said Aleasa.

By 2015, Mircea was in kindergarten and very curious. He came home one day and asked why he didn’t have siblings like the other kids at school. Aleasa and her husband agreed with their son. Why couldn’t Mircea have someone to play with, and why couldn’t the family foster more children?

Moldovan dad gardening with children
Aleasa's husband and their sons working in the family garden (2021)

Slowly but surely the family grew to include four children. This took not only paperwork and patience, but major changes to Aleasa’s house and compromises on the family budget.

With the support of a CERI social worker, Aleasa and her husband have been able to face the challenges that come with parenting. They attended counseling and parenting classes and received help with food and medical support when they needed it most. Aleasa believes the biggest help was having a kind and knowledgeable social worker she could trust in her parenting journey.

Ilona making bread
Ilona making bread
Iana doing chores
Iana doing chores

The family has worked hard over the years to ease these growing pains through creative bootstrapping and teamwork. They raise chickens and own a cow, and they grow potatoes and carrots. Each of the children has daily chores that make the family a productive team. One child takes the cow to the herd each morning while the other makes tea. One helps Aleasa with cooking and dishes in the evening while another feeds the chickens and ducks. As Aleasa put it, “We cover each other to be an organized family.”

Mircea gardening
Mircea gardening
Andrei & Mircea collecting water
Andrei & Mircea collecting water

Years later, after all the time she’s spent raising these once small children into the people they are today, what does Aleasa think about her and her husband’s decision to have a family? In her own words, it would seem the lessons of parenting have been well worth the effort: “I would advise families who really want to do good for our future to have children in their families, and to love them.”

Family changes everything!

Help us support foster families so more children can have a place to call home. 
* Identifying details are modified to protect the privacy of the children and families we serve.

A second chance at childhood

Moraru siblings with their foster family.
Moraru siblings with their foster family.

A second chance at childhood

For years, the Moraru* siblings didn’t have a stable family or a place to call home. Their respective fathers abandoned them, and their mother was unable to care for them due to her alcohol addiction. So Eleonora (7), Iuliana (5), Nadejda (2), and Nicu (1) were all left to the care of local orphanages—separated from each other, without the love of a family. It was at that moment in their lives that CERI met them—vulnerable and separated—and started advocating for a solution. We knew that a loving family would give these children their best chance at a happy childhood. Two years later, we identified the solution: the Ieseanus.

Nadejda with her foster dad, Constantin.
Nadejda with her foster dad, Constantin. (2021)

The Ieseanu family decided to foster them, reuniting the siblings and showing them what a family truly could be. 

Irina and Constantin Ieseanu have two biological sons, but their own family’s demands didn’t stop them from taking in four more. The Ieseanu family is a welcome change for the four Moraru siblings—especially for Nicu, the youngest. He has lived in Moldovan state care since the earliest days of his life, left without a chance to bond with a loving mother or father.

Moraru siblings with their foster family.
Moraru siblings with their foster family. (2021)

The Moraru siblings were officially placed with the Ieseanus on June 1, 2020. Since welcoming their new foster children home, the Ieseanus have noticed significant and encouraging changes in the children. Nicu, the youngest, has shown the most improvement. His time in the orphanage worsened his existing health problems, delaying his development. Most days, he lay in his crib without much human interaction. After only a few months with Irina and Constantin, however, Nicu started to sit on his own and even tried walking.

The girls have changed, too. Irina and Constantin say the girls’ behavior and life skills are improving every day as they experience the unconditional love of a family.

Eleonora studying at home.
Eleonora studying at home. (2021)

Irina and Constantin’s care for the Moraru siblings is a product of their generosity and willingness to help children in their own country. But it’s also a testament to CERI’s work of more than 20 years in Moldova. Through CERI’s support and programs, foster families like Irina and Constantin are offered counseling, training, and vital tools to help them create a safe family environment. With CERI’s support, they can work to repair the damage of a traumatic childhood and strengthen communication between every member of their new family.  

It’s a ripple effect: the Ieseanu family receives Christ-centered services from CERI, and in turn, the Ieseanus are empowered to offer God’s love to the children in their care.

Moraru siblings with their foster brother in their garden.
Moraru siblings with their foster brother in their garden. (2021)

The Moraru children also receive their own direct care from CERI through cash stipends, food, clothing, and the dedicated attention of their case managers at CERI Moldova. All of this is possible because of the support CERI receives from generous, passionate donors in the U.S.  

“They have a safe and nurturing environment where they are properly cared for and loved,” said Irina Rotaru, CERI Moldova staff member.  

“Here, it’s much different than in a shelter. They have the opportunity to experience things they could never have at a shelter—individual attention, genuine interest from other family members, opportunities to learn and improve—and just be kids.” 

The story isn’t over for the Moraru children.

Moraru girls playing with their foster brother.
Moraru girls playing with their foster brother. (2021)

Right now, they have the support they need, with a loving family and a team of case managers to help them through every joyful and heartbreaking moment that life will bring. But there are many years between the children they are today and the adults they will become. Their childhood has been set on a path of restoration, but they will need ongoing support throughout the rest of their childhood years.  

Not every child is as blessed as the Moraru kids. But at CERI, we’re working hard to change that. Thanks to the generous support of people just like you, children like Eleonora, Iuliana, Nadejda, and Nicu will have a chance at a restored childhood. 

We only get one childhood.

Help us protect more children in Moldova & around the world by giving them the gift of a loving family. 
* Identifying details are modified to protect the privacy of the children and families we serve.

Learning to cope at 15

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka
Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka

Learning to cope at 15

Renosha* was 15 years old when her mother died. As a young girl living in Sri Lanka, she didn’t know who she would live with next.

Her father was still alive, but he made his living by begging on the streets, often disappearing for days or weeks at a time. According to Mary Chryshanthan, one of CERI’s Case Managers in Sri Lanka, “It was not safe for Renosha to live in such an environment, with no relatives to support her. She could not live with her father.”

All this happened in 2019: Renosha lost her mother, experienced the stress of living with her father, and went to live in an institution (orphanage). This was just months before a virus would upend not only Renosha’s life, but the lives of people all around the world.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, with kids from the orphanage
Renosha with children from the orphanage. (2021)

During the pandemic, many children in institutions went to live with family, but not Renosha. Her father was her only living family member. And one day, she received the sudden, terrible news: her father had died of Covid-19.

“Even after her father’s death, she had to identify and release her father’s body as the only child,” remembered Mary.  

Renosha had experienced so much trauma and tragedy in the span of a few short months. And the longer she spent in the orphanage, the more anxious, depressed, and hopeless she became. She had conflicts with other kids in the orphanage and started pushing back against the authority of the adults in charge. She was navigating the challenges and stresses of her teenage years without the support of family or the stability of a loving home.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, watering the garden
Renosha watering the garden at the orphanage. (2021)

“She did not know about a family structure; she felt sad and confused [about] not having a family or relatives,” Mary said.

Around the time of her father’s death, Renosha was given the opportunity to work with our team in Sri Lanka. We began providing services to children in Renosha’s orphanage to help ease the effects of trauma and help children cope.

One program that made a world of difference for Renosha? CERI’s stress management group sessions. The program taught kids how stressful situations affect the body and mind, tips and techniques for relaxing even amidst stress, and small group discussions where participants were invited to share about their pasts. During these sessions, Renosha was able to process her pain, reframe her past, and gain the strength to take on the future.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, receives counseling
Renosha with her case manager, Mary Chryshanthan. (2021)

We also provided Renosha with one-on-one counseling sessions to help her deal with her trauma. Renosha has made huge progress. Now, she gets along well with others, and she understands how to process her emotions in a healthy way.

“She has less conflicts with children in the institution now,” said Mary. “She is more understanding and has control of her emotions. She feels comfortable to share her emotions with others, and she takes time to talk with other children [there].”

Renosha got the help she needed when she needed it.

But there are thousands more just like Renosha who simply need someone to care.

* Identifying details are modified to protect the privacy of the children and families we serve.

The Gift of Being Together

Children from South Africa, Amahle and Siyanda,
Children from South Africa, Amahle and Siyanda,

The Gift of Being Together

Amahle and Siyanda, like many children, find great joy in the simplest things. For Amahle, a 12-year-old girl, it’s playing netball with her team at school. For 8-year-old Siyanda, it’s riding his scooter through their neighborhood.

And no matter what they’re doing, Amahle and Siyanda find their greatest joy in being together. Amahle looks after Siyanda, and Siyanda looks up to Amahle. They are each other’s family.

Their relationship—and the simple moments they spend together—are what make childhood special.

Children, Amahle and Siyanda, playing in the yard
Amahle and Siyanda playing in the yard. (2021)

But in many ways, Amahle and Siyanda are not like other children. Their chance at a happy and safe childhood is at risk. In April of this year, the siblings became orphans when their mom died of cancer.

Now, they’re vulnerable to the many challenges orphans face worldwide. We know that the childhood years are some of the most formative of a person’s lifeand Amahle and Siyanda are right in the middle of those years. The decisions they make (and the ones made for them) will shape their personalities, wellbeing, and future permanently.

Children, Amahle and Siyanda, with a CERI staff member
CERI staff, Siphesihle, visiting Amahle and Siyanda (2021)

When the siblings’ mother passed away, her dying wish was for her children to be placed in an orphanage. For a mother in her situation, it seemed like the only option. But if Amahle and Siyanda had been placed in an orphanage as their mother had requested, there was not promise they could stay together.

Beyond the risk of separation, orphanages in South Africa don’t always provide the best care for children, according to Siphesihle Khumalo, Program Director and Social Worker with CERI South Africa. Institutional care can’t always meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children in the same way a parent or a family does.

The aunt of Amahle and Siyanda
Amahle and Siyanda's aunt. (2021)

When CERI began working with Amahle and Siyanda, we were dedicated to giving them the best childhood possible. In this case, that meant finding a family for them to live with. After working closely with child protective services as well as a local community worker, we discovered that Amahle and Siyanda had a living aunt who could take them in. Together, Amahle and Siyanda’s care team decided the best situation would be to place the kids in foster care with their aunt and only living family member.

It wasn’t a perfect solution. Often in cases of orphanhood, the solutions are imperfect. But Amahle and Siyanda now have a chance to grow up with a loving caregiver within their own family—and they get to stay together.

Children, Amahle and Siyanda, with their aunt
Amahle and Siyanda with their aunt and CERI staff (2021)

We believe every childhood is valuable, and a child’s future should never be taken lightly. The story of Amahle and Siyanda is an example of how we can rally together and protect the joy and safety of childhood.

For now, Amahle and Siyanda live in a loving home together with their aunt, with whom they have a wonderful relationship. Amahle and Siyanda were given a second chance at childhood and the gift of being together—but there are millions of other children who are waiting for that same opportunity.

Can you give today so more kids can grow in a loving family?

You are the solution.

More Than an Education

Rukhsana with her son
Rukhsana with her son

More Than an Education

When girls receive an education, an entire society benefits. But barriers like poverty, teen pregnancy, and child labor may keep about 20 million girls from attending school, according to data from the Right to Education Forum.

We recently met a young girl named Rukhsana whose dream is to go to school and give back to her community. She has faced many challenges in her journey, but she hasn’t given up. And because of you, she is now well on her way to her dreams. 

This is Rukhsana’s story of hope.

In 2017, Rukhsana and her family were forced to flee their home country of Myanmar because of genocide. While they were living in a refugee settlement in Bangladesh, Rukhsana began to share with her family her hopes for her future: most importantly, that she could finish high school, attend college, and work in a job that gives back to her community.

Rukhsana studying
Ruksana learning at a CERI community center in India. (2021)

In Rukhsana’s culture, however, girls are expected to get married—not pursue an education.

Soon, Rukhsana’s brother, who was living in India, heard of Rukhsana’s hopes. He promised her that, if she traveled to India to live with him, he would help her go to school.

So, at 15 years old, Rukhsana packed up her belongings, left her family, and traveled to India to follow her dreams. But three days after arriving in India, her brother arranged her marriage without her consent.

For many young girls just like Rukhsana, marriage and childbirth happen at a very young age. And often, without the young girl’s consent. Also, many schools will not permit a girl who is pregnant to go to school. 

Rukhsana receiving counseling from CERI staff
Rukshana receiving counseling from CERI staff. (2021)

Rukhsana and her new husband made a home in a refugee settlement in India, where Rukhsana soon gave birth to a son. Their living conditions were poor, and they often lacked adequate shelter or food. Rukhsana’s family lacked some of the most basic things, and she began experiencing depression and anxiety. Her hopes of an education seemed farther away than ever.

When our team connected with Rukhsana, we helped with food, clothing, and counseling sessions to help with her anxiety and depression. When Rukhsana had appendicitis and had to have surgery, donations like yours helped cover her medical bills. As we worked with Rukhsana, we learned of her ambitions of going to school and getting a job she could be proud of.

Rukhsana with her husband and son
Rukshana enjoying family time with her husband and son. (2021)

Rukhsana did not speak any Hindi or English at the time—India’s two primary languages. We helped her find the right language classes. We then worked with the local school system to enroll Rukshana in 9th grade. We are thrilled to share that she has recently completed grade 10.

“When I came to CERI, I got new hope and courage,” Rukhsana said. “I got the opportunity to get an education.”

Rukhsana now volunteers with CERI in India, where she mentors students, helping them navigate online learning. She also volunteers as a paralegal with a local organization that advocates for women who experience domestic violence.

Rukhsana's son playing ball
Rukhshans's son playing at a CERI community center in India. (2021)

Rukhsana is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams. But for her, education is about more than personal fulfillment.

“I want to become a Human Rights Activist after completing my education,” Rukhsana said. “I want my son to get a good education… I want to set an example. I will work for the betterment of my community and raise awareness about women’s rights.”

As a refugee and a young wife and mother, Rukhsana didn’t get to experience many of the simple joys of childhood. For her, education is one path toward changing the story. But she can’t achieve her dreams alone.

Do you want to help Rukhsana finish the story?

You are the solution.

Unlikely Pen Pals

Sponsor

Once a month, a woman in East Texas sends a letter to a little girl in Sri Lanka. The two are separated by oceans, continents, decades, culture and language, but none of this can keep them apart. One writes in English, the other responds in Tamil. One has lost a mother, the other a daughter. Both are humble, and both rely on God to provide not only the things they know they need, but the needs they have yet to discover.
“I just have to see what God provides and what evolves, but I’m wanting to be there involved in her life, the rest of her life, in some part,” said Linda Frazier, a child sponsor. Linda has been sponsoring 12-year-old Selvika* for over a year, and already she is the reason Selvika has celebrated a birthday for the first time, the reason she has a table to study at when she gets home from school, the reason she has a bed to sleep on at night.
 
 
Like other child sponsors, Linda commits a monthly gift to Selvika that provides a loving home environment, counseling, education, food and clothing for her in Sri Lanka. Selvika lost her mother to cancer in the spring of 2020 and has lived with her aunt and uncle ever since. Selvika would like to become a doctor one day, to look after people like her mother and prevent losses like the one she has had to live through.
 
Selvika with her mom, who passed away in 2020
 
Linda is a house manager at Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), where she lives and works daily to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has worked there for 12 years and has been a foster parent for 20 years. Helping others is an important part of her life as a Christian, and she feels God has led her in many ways to be with the right people at the right time, enabling her to be a voice and force for good.
 
Linda with those she helps at BVT (2021)
 
Sponsorship is not only a gift but an investment. A sponsor changes a child’s life, but so does a child change a sponsor, and not always as expected.
Linda plans to keep supporting Selvika as long as she can, giving a portion of what God has provided her to provide for someone else. Meanwhile, Selvika plans to keep making Linda and her family proud. “Your prayers and assistance have been so supportive to me,” Selvika wrote to Linda one month. “I will accomplish my mother’s dreams and your expectations, and will surely become a successful person in life.”
 
Selvika with her aunt and brothers (2021)

There are many children waiting for a sponsor.

Will you invest in a child’s life? 

A father’s will to provide

South African father

Like most people with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, Shadrack Mvelase receives a disability pension. But it is not enough for a single father raising four children.

The Mvelase family lives in Roosboom, a district of Ladysmith, South Africa. Roosboom is situated in a rural part of the country, far from the industry of the city. Shadrack has cared for his whole family—a pair of twins, a child and grandchild—since his wife died of AIDS in 2010.

Shadrick with his family (2020).

When the CERI team first met Shadrack in 2016, we planted a food gardens in his neighborhood to help families become self-sustainable and rely less on the government.

We invested in Shadrack and his family so that his children could stay with him, rather than transitioning to an orphanage or facility out of necessity. In turn, Shadrack has invested in his children and works hard to support his family.

CERI also built a new house for the Mvelase family in partnership with Mpilonhle Sanctuary Organisation and continues to provide counseling and health assistance.

Mvelase family’s new home (left). Their previous house (right).

Around the world, CERI helps families of all kinds find ways to stay together. CERI has helped families for 20 years in locations like South Africa, India, Moldova and Sri Lanka through the sponsorship of children and the help of local staff who can offer direct care and meet families where they are.

CERI staff visiting Shadrack.

CERI continues to stand by the Mvelase family, but more importantly, Shadrack continues to protect and provide for his family. 

Help dads like Shadrack support their families.

A donation as small as $25 has the power to change a life.

“No one should be alone.”

Cathy child sponsor

May is National Foster Care Month. CERI is part of the global movement to grow foster care around the world. Here’s the story of one mom making a difference for kids at home and abroad.

Cathy Via-Reque’s identity as a mother is complex and layered—one that’s been tested by many unexpected twists and turns.

Cathy grew up in the Midwest, where she married, had two children, and eventually separated from her first husband. In the midst of the pain of separation, Cathy experienced additional heartbreak: the realization that her children would soon make cherished memories without her. There were snowball fights and inside jokes she may never know. But becoming content with that new reality would be the first of many lessons in her journey.

Cathy with her 2 children (2013)

After Cathy had her own children, she found that her desire to foster or adopt only became stronger. “I love my kids so much, and I give them all I can,” Cathy said. “Everybody needs a parent to love them. No one should be alone.” She came to realize even helping one child can make a difference: “If you help one child, that’s one less child that has to go through life without a parent.”

When Cathy married her husband, Alfonso, they formed a new family. It took time for both Cathy and Alfonso to learn how to parent in a blended family, but soon enough it came naturally. Cathy shared her passion for foster care and adoption with Alfonso early in their relationship, but Alfonso was hesitant to restart the parenting process later in life. They prayed together for God to guide them, and Cathy never forgot her dream to give a child the gift of family.

Cathy & Alfonso with their children (2018)

Soon, the Via-Reques moved from Chicago to San Antonio, where they found a church, built community, and found new ways to give back. Cathy sponsors a child through CERI and volunteers with St. Jude’s Ranch, to name a few. 

After years of deliberation and prayer, the Via-Reque family adopted their 3-year-old daughter, Mary, in 2020. Mary became part of the Via-Reque family just as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders took place, a blessing during these crucial first years.

Via-Reque family celebrates on Mary’s adoption day (2020)

Becoming a parent to Mary looks different. It is wholly unique, yet wholly the same. It is motherhood. Complicated, scary, selfless; a journey of patience like the rings of a tree, each layer building a foundation strong enough to survive the years to come.

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