LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband Prince Harry, have recognized Children International, the global humanitarian nonprofit that seeks to eradicate poverty, among 15 people or organizations worldwide that are inspiring and noteworthy as ‘Forces of Change.”
Of the 10 countries that Children International serves, the UA Little Rock Children International location is the only U.S. site. The UA Little Rock center serves approximately 2,300 children and youth in central Arkansas and offers a variety of school- and community-based programs, including after-school and summer programming, cooking classes, emergency food assistance, a children’s choir, dental and medical services, and college preparation and career training.
“This very positive announcement recognizes how important Children International’s work has been over the past 80 years,” said Ryan Davis, director of UA Little Rock Children International. “Our organization doesn’t exist to be recognized, but being recognized by members of the British Royal Family gives people a chance to understand our mission and to support the good work our organization is doing.”
UA Little Rock Children International, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, holds health education, enrichment, and employment preparation classes for children, youth, and young adults up to age 24. The operation began small with Cheryl Chapman, founding director, and one other employee located in an office on UA Little Rock’s campus. Students from UA Little Rock’s Student Literacy Corps started by serving as tutors to 60 students at Bale Elementary.
Now the organization operates a dental clinic at Wakefield Elementary and partners with Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s health clinic at Stephens Elementary. UA Little Rock Children International holds after-school, in-school, and community-based educational and enrichment programs at nine Little Rock School District schools and within city community centers and public libraries.
This Saturday, Aug. 10, UA Little Rock Children International is undertaking one of its largest events of the year, the Back to School Jamboree where school supplies will be distributed to approximately 1,000 children. In partnership with the Junior League of Little Rock, UA Little Rock Children International will host the event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Jack Stephens Center. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact Stephanie Jones, UA Little Rock Children International volunteer and outreach coordinator, at 501-663-5541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are fortunate to have a partner providing school supplies this year,” Davis said. “Hogan Taylor, a public accounting firm in Little Rock, has donated supplies and is hosting a staff-wide service day on Friday to help pack school supplies. The Junior League of Little Rock has also been a great partner in this event and is bringing a lot of volunteers, food, fun, and school supplies.”
Worldwide, Children International helps more than 200,000 children find a path out of poverty with programs focused on health, education, empowerment through life skills development, and employment. Many of Children International’s volunteer partners are mothers (some 9,000 strong) whose children participate in its programs in 67 community centers around the world.
“We are thrilled and honored that the Royal couple is recognizing Children International as a leading and inspiring force for change,” said Susana Eshleman, president and CEO of Children International. “We hope our new turn in the spotlight will encourage people from all parts of the globe to join us and embrace our mission of creating a world without poverty, where every child, family and community is connected, productive and thriving. Thank you, Royal family, for raising awareness of work to create positive change in the world!”
The Sussexes’ Instagram account posted a collage of photos taken from nine of the 15 mission-driven efforts: “Many of you have suggested that we use this month as an opportunity to highlight lesser-known organisations and shine a light on those working hard behind the scenes that may not get the level of attention that they so rightly deserve.
“These accounts showcase those persevering at the grassroots level, connecting our global community through a shared lens of giving back and helping one another,” the statement on Instagram continued. “We were so happy to learn about them and are now able to share them with you!”
In addition to Children International, the Sussex Royal’s “Forces of Change” organizations unveiled today were Blink Now, Rafiki Mwema, Beyond Blue, Art of Hope, Lion Guardians, Love the Oceans, Global Wellness Day, Earth Day Network, Tiny Tickers, Plan International UK, Pawsitive Change Program, Free Wheelchair Mission, Beescause, and Waves For Change.
Anyone who is interested in supporting UA Little Rock Children International is encouraged to visit the website and find out how they can help the organization and its mission.
“We are always looking for ways to expand our programs so we can help more children in Arkansas,” Davis said. “Financial support is one of the most immediate ways, but we also appreciate having good ambassadors in the community and for folks to learn about us and what we do. We have a staff of less than 20 people, so we depend on good volunteers. We are lucky that we have so many, but we always more people who want to help our local children.”