HOPE for Kids, a program of HOPE worldwide, is a nonprofit, community-based organization founded on the belief that every child deserves to live a healthy, fulfilling and productive life. The volunteers are committed to meeting the healthcare needs in low-income areas through educating families about the vital need for childhood immunization and other health issues. The 1,000 active statewide volunteers enable HOPE for Kids to canvass low-income neighborhoods in six cities in the state of South Carolina. In the four years HOPE for Kids has been in South Carolina, approximately 80,000 children have been reached.
One outreach strategy of HOPE for Kids is its Annual Immunization Drives. Volunteers go door to door in low-income areas, distributing health education materials and encouraging parents to complete their child's immunization series. Between 1994 and 1998, more than 32,000 children were reached through these annual outreach events. During the first immunization drive, 80 volunteers participated. In 1998, that number grew to 600 volunteers, who reached some 20,000 children statewide.
Beginning in 1996, HOPE for Kids volunteers have sponsored a toy drive to provide Christmas gifts to low-income neighborhoods serviced by HOPE for Kids volunteers during the year. In 1997, volunteers sponsored Christmas events in Columbia, Greenville and Charleston. A total of 1,500 were reached statewide with gifts. In addition, 2,220 children were reached with health information during the festivities.
Low-income residents are often eligible for medical services but are unaware that these services exist. For example, health coverage is available through private health insurance companies as an alternative to standard Medicaid coverage. The major benefit of these services is that private medical providers can be utilized with such coverage, eliminating the need for long waiting hours at medical clinics and unnecessary use of emergency room services. Filling out an application is the only requirement necessary for residents meeting low-income status. However, few applications have been filed. In an effort to educate the target population about this service, HOPE for Kids volunteers distributed information about the alternative healthcare plan. As a result, in 1998 HOPE for Kids reached 15,000 families with Medicaid applications and information. HOPE for Kids also actually signed up 1,245 children on Medicaid.
While serving in these low-income areas, the volunteers have observed first hand other crucial needs among children and their families and are committed to expanding efforts to meet these needs. While proper healthcare is a key factor in breaking the poverty cycle, academic success is an equally vital key in reducing the negative impact of poverty among youth in low-income areas. HOPE for Kids volunteers have been operating a family resource center to meet this need. This program provides a homework center during the week. In addition, on the weekends academic tutoring coupled with a basketball league and a cultural arts program provides 4th and 5th graders the enrichment needed to succeed. HOPE for Kids volunteers serve as caring adults providing literacy skills development. Contingent on the student meeting the requirements of this tutoring component, he/she has the opportunity to participate in a basketball league and explore cultural and arts activities. Computer training is also provided for the parents, as well.