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Give A Child Life

 PO Box 554
 Silverado, CA 92676
[P] (714) 656-2462
[F] (714) 649-2728
[email protected]
Deborah Johnson
 Printable 1 Page Summary
 Printable Profile
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the community foundation in the past five years No
Employer Identification Number 20-8026741 00000



Mission StatementMORE »

Give A Child Life's (GCL) mission is to help save the poorest children in the world at the time when it matters most: age five and under. In addition to providing low-cost, high-impact projects that transform communities, such as solar lights and bag gardens, GCL offers young children a safety net that includes feeding programs, emergency food and medicine, child care, preschool and Kids' Club. Mothers benefit from support groups, small business assistance, health training and hand-washing training. In 2016, over 2000 families and 6000 children were helped.

Ninety-two family pre and post assessments indicate that families with the longest participation in GCL had: a) significant increases in their weekly incomes; b) significant reductions in their children's hunger; and c) a greater percentage eating three meals a day.

Mission Statement

Give A Child Life's (GCL) mission is to help save the poorest children in the world at the time when it matters most: age five and under. In addition to providing low-cost, high-impact projects that transform communities, such as solar lights and bag gardens, GCL offers young children a safety net that includes feeding programs, emergency food and medicine, child care, preschool and Kids' Club. Mothers benefit from support groups, small business assistance, health training and hand-washing training. In 2016, over 2000 families and 6000 children were helped.

Ninety-two family pre and post assessments indicate that families with the longest participation in GCL had: a) significant increases in their weekly incomes; b) significant reductions in their children's hunger; and c) a greater percentage eating three meals a day.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year 2017
Projected Expenses $65,000.00
Projected Revenue $65,000.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • El Zaite Children's Center
  • Give A Child Life Kenya
  • DoorStep Gardens US

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

Give A Child Life's (GCL) mission is to help save the poorest children in the world at the time when it matters most: age five and under. In addition to providing low-cost, high-impact projects that transform communities, such as solar lights and bag gardens, GCL offers young children a safety net that includes feeding programs, emergency food and medicine, child care, preschool and Kids' Club. Mothers benefit from support groups, small business assistance, health training and hand-washing training. In 2016, over 2000 families and 6000 children were helped.

Ninety-two family pre and post assessments indicate that families with the longest participation in GCL had: a) significant increases in their weekly incomes; b) significant reductions in their children's hunger; and c) a greater percentage eating three meals a day.

Background Statement

Give A Child Life (GCL) was established in late 2007 after the founder, Deborah Johnson, Ph.D., spent 25 years working with large international relief and developmental organizations. Dr. Johnson saw that the children most overlooked by traditional aid programs were those between six months and five years old. Drawing on child development and medical research, Dr. Johnson created the GCL program model. Many components had been developed during the four years that Dr. Johnson ran a large residential center in Nairobi that cared for 100 children with disabilities and 75 orphaned/abandoned infants and toddlers. After seeing the importance of keeping children in families, Dr. Johnson developed a large local adoption program in Kenya for AIDS orphans and a regular visitation program for relatives. In working with families devastated by AIDS and poverty, she realized the importance of a multi-faceted approach. GCL helps with child care, emergency or supplemental food and basic medical services. GCL also works to improve a family's future with self-help initiatives, case management services, parenting education, and social networking groups. This type of support enables mothers of young children to work longer hours and gives them the skills needed to improve their children's well-being.   In 2008, GCL began its first program at the El Zaite Children’s Center near San Salvador, El Salvador. Today 43 children attend the center’s preschool. In 2009, GCL began working with village elders to identify and assist the most vulnerable children in Kiandutu, a slum near Nairobi, Kenya. Forty mothers participate in a monthly GCL group and 42 children are enrolled in child care.  Emergency food and medicine are provided to families in desperate need in both communities.

Impact Statement

GCL focuses on the basics: food, medicine, child care, and other necessities to ensure young children’s survival. In each location, GCL partners with community members and leaders to identify the neediest families with young children and provide specific services. GCL's first priority is food and medicine. Last year, GCL provided hot porridge and lunches for 35 children under 5 five days a week and sick mothers and grandmothers joined as well. GCL also gave emergency food packages to 138 families in crisis. Additionally, GCL works to aid child development and health through subsidizing infant car and preschools as well as paying hospital bills for several children. In 2016, GCL introduced new initiatives such as solar lights, DoorStep bag gardens, and Tortillas for Kenya. Through programs like these, Give A Child Life helps improve children’s lives and increase parents’ ability to care for their little ones.

Needs Statement

Our most pressing needs right now are to put DoorStep Gardens in the homes of low-income children in the US and Kenya. With a DoorStep Garden, a poor family can have fresh, healthy vegetables for their young children. Children stay healthier and the family saves money. To provide a full DoorStep Garden in the US (2 vertical and 1 horizontal bag) costs $30 the first year, then the cost drops dramatically. In Kenya, one bag is about $8.  We also need to light up the homes of children in Kenyan slums with our innovative solar lights, Mabati Bulbs. One light costs about $8. With these clever soda bottle lights filled with water, a child living in a 10 x 10 foot room with no windows will be able to read inside, find their clothes and toys and see the mother's face. Women can keep homes cleaner and actually see what they are cooking. Having indoor light during the day in these small rooms changes lives forever. Feeding young children is the core of what we do....for $10, a donor can feed a desperately poor child a nutritious lunch five days a week for a month. For only $4 a month, a donor can send a desperately poor child in Kenya to a preschool with lunch five days a week. Donors interested in increasing families' earning can provide small micro-grants of $50-$100 to help mothers with young children start their own small businesses. 

CEO Statement

In a world filled with need and suffering, Give A Child Life focuses on helping the most vulnerable children—boys and girls under six years old living in the urban slums of developing countries. Right now, GCL is working with home- and community-based centers in El Salvador and Kenya. We know that we cannot care for every struggling infant or toddler in a poor community. But we can help to save the lives of the weakest—the sick, the starving, the orphans—the ones who need us most. From health care to nutrition to education, children this age have specialized, highly specific needs. Yet assistance programs—for the most part—focus on either infants or school-age children. The needs of those from one to five, who have the most to gain from outside support, are drowned in an overwhelming flood of suffering. Over the past year, GCL’s commitments in both El Salvador and Kenya have grown considerably. Working closely with village elders and mothers in both communities, a genuine dialogue has developed, and our programs have changed in response to children’s urgent needs. As we expand our work, we're also putting in place accountability measures and tracking systems to ensure that all funds are spent appropriately and wisely. The bottom line is that we have saved lives. We found children who were sick, dying and very hungry. Now they’re on the path to recovery. Many more children are waiting. As a relatively new and rapidly growing organization, partners and donors are greatly needed and appreciated.

Board Chair Statement

The seed of Give A Child Life was planted on a hot summer day in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. A few minutes earlier, I’d been inside a dingy, mud-walled hut where a whippet thin woman with gray hair and tired eyes loosely held a crying baby. On the banged up wooden table sat a dirty bottle with some weak tea. In the alcove, her daughter, the baby’s mother, talked to three other children. All had moved in when the mother fell sick with AIDS. Wearily, the grandmother looked at me and thrust out the baby, asking me to take it. The mother watched from the corner of her eye but did nothing.

I walked outside, emotions churning. In the 25 years I’d been traveling to slums and villages, probably 40 to 50 mothers or grandmothers had asked me to take their children. Looking at their eyes and faces, I realized that the motivation wasn’t laziness or dislike—it was desperation. They knew that a person like myself, who had money and lived in the United States, could feed and care for a child much better than they could. They wanted their babies to have a chance. God alone knew how many babies each woman had already buried.

For some reason, this grandmother was the last straw. I caught my breath and thought hard. What did these families need to stop trying to give away their children? The answer came swiftly. Child care. From sun up to sun down. Give the babies nutritious food, medical care, clean clothes, a stimulating environment. Teach them to play and reach and see and laugh. Care for them during the day, then send them back home.

At the time, I wasn’t even aware of all the research proving that the best time to help any hungry child is during the first three years. Then, as the brain and body are growing furiously, the right nutrition and care can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

I took the baby from the grandmother and admitted her to a residential children's center that I ran at the time. But think of the difference it would have made if a center in the neighborhood could have cared for her during the day. Her mother could have watched her little girl grow as she lay dying…her grandmother could have bonded with her. The baby would have been healthy, not sickly and constantly crying. She would have received her vaccinations and appropriate medical care. Life for the entire family, while still hard, would have been more bearable.

This is what GCL is about. Not solving the problems of the world, but simply making them more tolerable for those who suffer. Extending a hand of compassion to people trapped in circumstances beyond their control…reaching out with love across continents and cultures…tacitly acknowledging that all of us—no matter whether we live in million dollar mansions or in cardboard huts—share a common bond of human pain.

Other Ways to Donate/Volunteer

Give A Child Life accepts checks, bank transfers, cash and other gifts. Volunteer help is sometimes needed and very welcome. 

Geographic Area Served

North Orange County
Central Orange County
West Orange County
South Orange County
Give A Child Life has programs in central Orange County (Silverado), where the headquarters is located and a demonstration garden exists. It also has programs in Santa Ana and Anaheim, where demonstration DoorStep Gardens are at a nonprofit organization and a school. GCL's largest work is in Kiandutu, a slum near Thika, Kenya. GCL also funds a children's center in El Zaite, a low income urban community in El Salvador.

Organization Categories

  1. Human Services - Children's and Youth Services
  2. -
  3. -



El Zaite Children's Center

In El Zaite, a slum near San Salvador, GCL supports a preschool caring for 42 boys and girls age six and under. Children are enrolled if they are from desperately poor families with great needs. Priority is given to orphans and those with single mothers. In an area where violence, hunger and disease are extremely prevalent, the El Zaite Children’s Center provides children a safe haven and nurtures their healthy development. At the Center, the children are taught cognitive skills such as naming, sorting and classifying, as well as beginning reading and writing skills and simple math. Emergency food and medical care is available when children are in desperate need. In 2011 and 2012, children received backpacks filled with books from a partnership between GCL and Bundles of Books.
Budget  $20,244.00
Category  Education, General/Other Early Childhood Education
Population Served Infants to Preschool (under age 5)
Program Short-Term Success  The Center provides a healthy environment and early education for 42 children five days a week. Attendance is high, and parents are involved in Center-related activities. Teachers monitor children on an ongoing basis, and the children receive regular medical and dental check-ups.
Program Long-Term Success  GCL's CEO, Deborah Johnson, Ph.D., traveled to El Salvador several times to train the Center's teachers and administrators in child assessment and financial reporting. Together, she and the teachers designed an assessment to measure children's developmental status at the beginning and end of the school year. Each year teachers administer the pre-assessments in January and the post-assessments in November. Gains are tracked in the following categories: Language; Math; Cognitive skills; Fine motor skills, and Gross motor skills. In 2012, the children made statistically significant improvements in all areas.
Program Success Monitored By  Annual pre and post development assessments, pre and post reading assessments, monthly reports, attendance and other indicators. Income, well-being and other data is also collected on an annual Family Assessment completed by all families enrolling children that year.
Examples of Program Success  Three-year-old Gemamiel was born into a family with 12 children. His mother, Vivas, survives by selling food on the street, but many people buy food on credit and never pay her back. When she first heard about the El Zaite preschool, she wanted to send her children, but she couldn’t afford it. So her young children did the unthinkable—they found work so they could go to school. Now Gemamiel is a star student.

Give A Child Life Kenya

In 2010, a GCL community survey of Kiandutu indicated that the unemployment rate was 91%; 25% of parents had at least one child under five die; and 92% of children had experienced hunger. Most mothers, desperate for work, left their young children home alone while they looked for odd jobs on the street. Give A Child Life has worked closely with the local leaders to identify the neediest families with children under 6 in the community, specifically targeting orphans and those who were severely malnourished or had a chronic disease. GCL immediately provides emergency food to these families and medical care to the children who need it. The parents, mostly single mothers, meet monthly to discuss common challenges and ways to address them. GCL has enrolled many of these children in preschools that provide lunch. For children between one and three years old, GCL runs a feeding program at its compound in the center of Kiandutu. GCL also provides porridge, mats, toys and other support to local women caring for infants and toddlers. Finally, GCL's DoorStep Gardens help desperately poor families grow food in space-saving sacks. The abundant vegetables help prevent hunger, malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
Budget  $26,776.00
Category  Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other Meal Distribution
Population Served Infants to Preschool (under age 5)
Program Short-Term Success  During 2012, GCL distributed emergency food over 200 times, provided medicine to sick children, built a shade cover for an infant care center, provided mats for another infant care center, bought toys for child care centers, and sent 25 toddlers to preschoolers with lunch programs. For 40 children under the age of three, GCL hired a cook, bought food and provided a hot lunch five days a week. Over the year, GCL provided small loans and technical support to help 16 families become more self-sufficient. Parents also learned how to keep their children healthy and received information on child development. In 2013 GCL distributed 350 DoorStep Garden bags to almost 100 families in Kiandutu, most with young children. GCL has established demonstration gardens at its compound and at the local health center. GCL uses food from its garden for its five-day-a-week feeding program serving babies and toddlers. When preschools close for month-long holidays, the program expands to include three to five year olds.
Program Long-Term Success  GCL measures long-term success by monitoring children's nutritional status (weight, height, and arm circumference), average number of days of illness, and changes in families’ quality of life (food availability, health, living conditions, income, etc.). Assuming that having their children fed and cared for makes it easier for mothers to work, GCL tracks changes in each family's income as well. Information is collected monthly and a family assessment report is completed annually. GCL staff monitor DoorStep Gardens monthly. GCL also did a large-scale community survey before starting its Kiandutu programs.
Program Success Monitored By  An annual evaluation that documents changes in children’s nutritional status and the families’ quality of life. Methodologies include a yearly family assessment, monthly reports of parents’ income, regular tracking of children’s heights and weights, regular focus groups, monthly attendance records and frequent informal communication.
Examples of Program Success  Allen was over a year old yet weighed only 7 pounds when GCL discovered him living with his desperately poor grandmother. She had been giving the little food they had to her older children and saved nothing for Allen. He would have died within days. GCL immediately contacted a local Center and secured placement for him. Allen is now healthy and walking on his own. After a few months of suppot, he was reunited with his grandmother and enrolled in a local preschool. His grandmother now is raising chickens and she has a flourishing garden.

DoorStep Gardens US

An inexpensive way to grow fresh food in limited spaces, DoorStep Gardens provide fresh, healthy vegetables right outside the doors of low-income families and children. Objectives are to:

1. Improve children's diets with more fresh vegetables.

2. Reduce childhood obesity and help prevent diabetes.

3. Provide healthy, low-cost alternatives to fast food.

4. Help children learn to grow food in school gardens and at home.

5. Involve parents and children together in learning to grow food.

With one bag holding 20-25 plants, a garden with 3 bags can produce a huge amount of nutritious food. All that's required is an empty space about 20 inches round with decent sunlight and nearby water. Bags can even grow on asphalt! Bags are good for growing kale, Swiss chard, herbs, tomatoes, romaine, bok choy, zucchini, onions, squash, and pumpkins. DoorStep Gardens are being built at schools in Bell Gardens and Anaheim and at Serving Kids Hope in Santa Ana.

Budget  $5,000.00
Category  Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other Food
Population Served Families Children and Youth (0 - 19 years)
Program Short-Term Success 
1. At least 85% of the families will maintain a garden long enough to eat fresh vegetables from it.
2. At least 75% of the families will maintain a garden for at least three months.
3. At least 60% of the families will re-plant the bags once the first crops are finished.
4. At least 75% of the families will use the gardens as a parent/child activity. 
Program Long-Term Success 
Long term success:
1. 85% of children will eat more fresh vegetables
2. Obesity and diabetes rates in children with gardens will be less than others their age
3. Children will develop greater preferences for fresh vegetables over fast foods
4. Children will learn lifelong gardening skills
5. Children and parents' relationships will grow stronger as a result of gardening together 
Program Success Monitored By  Detailed records will be kept of who planted the bags and when. Follow-up visits will occur every two weeks the first month, then every three and four weeks. Staff will use monitoring forms on each visit to document plant status, eating habits, parent/child engagement, etc. Every six months, the data will be analyzed to assess project success.
Examples of Program Success 
A successful garden will be filled with fresh kale, Swiss chard, lettuces, tomatoes and other vitamin and mineral-rich plants. The garden will be free of pests and given liquid fertilizer on a regular basis. In Kenya, the DoorStep Garden evaluation has documented:

  • After about a month and a half, children started eating fresh vegetables from the bag gardens. Over half the families eat vegetables 2-5 days a week. 88% report eating more vegetables now that they have gardens.
  • Many families share the vegetables with hungry friends and relatives.
  • Recently families started bringing their own bags to Give A Child Life Kenya and asking for help building gardens.



CEO/Executive Director Dr. Deborah Johnson
CEO Term Start 2007
CEO Email [email protected]
CEO Experience Deborah Johnson, Ph.D. developed the GCL model after 25 years of studying, managing and evaluating child-related social service, medical and health programs around the world. From 2002 to 2006, Dr. Johnson was responsible for large-scale children's programs in Kenya. She ran the Urban School Feeding Program, the Abandoned Baby Center, the Community-Based Rehabilitation program for disabled children, Dagoretti Special School and other projects. Under her leadership, programs were launched in partnership with the World Food Program and U.S. Agency for International Development that fed 92,000 boys and girls daily. In working with infants and toddlers affected by HIV, Dr. Johnson pioneered family unification programs and built one of the largest local adoption programs in Kenya. She also has developed child care centers in the U.S. and served as a consultant to the Los Angeles Unified School District's Early Childhood Education Division. Dr. Johnson received her Ph.D. in 1995 from Stanford University. She has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national and international educational and communication conferences.

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
-- -- --

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Alex Bennett Creative Director --
Laura Bennett Creative Director --
Carlos Diaz Project Coordinator, El Zaite --
Carol Mbugua Program Manager, Kiandutu --
Emma Olson Director of Development --
John Olson Special Projects Director --


Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --


Affiliation Year
-- --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --



Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 2
Number of Part Time Staff 0
Number of Volunteers 1
Number of Contract Staff 3
Staff Retention Rate % 100%
Staff Professional Development --

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 4
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 3
Male: 3
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 3
Management Succession Plan Yes
Organization Policies And Procedures Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No

Risk Management Provisions

Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy No

Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually

Government Licenses


CEO Comments


Foundation Comments



Board Chair Dr. Deborah Johnson
Board Chair Company Affiliation Give A Child Life
Board Chair Term Jan - Dec
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Charmaine Alvarado No affiliation Voting
Dr. Deborah L. Johnson Give A Child Life Voting
Melody McWilliams No Affiliation Voting
Frances Williams No affiliation Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Additional Board Members and Affiliations

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 3
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: --
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 4
Male: 0
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 100%
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Under Development
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 100%
Board Orientation Yes

CEO Comments


Foundation Comments


Standing Committees



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Fiscal Year Jan 01, 2017 to Dec 31, 2017
Projected Revenue $65,000.00
Projected Expenses $65,000.00
Form 990s

2015 Form 990

2014 Form 990

2013 GCL 2013 990

Audit Documents --
IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Revenue $57,345 $73,378 $69,731
Total Expenses $47,690 $71,458 $63,021

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Revenue By Revenue Source
Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$59,936 $70,394 --
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions -- -- $67,496
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue -- -- --
Investment Income, Net of Losses $-2,591 $2,984 $2,235
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- -- --
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other -- -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Expense By Type
Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Program Expense -- -- $63,021
Administration Expense $46,536 $64,833 --
Fundraising Expense -- -- --
Payments to Affiliates $1,154 $6,625 --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.20 1.03 1.11
Program Expense/Total Expenses 0% 0% 100%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 0% 0% 0%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Assets $39,077 $29,422 $27,536
Current Assets -- -- $27,536
Long-Term Liabilities -- -- --
Current Liabilities -- -- --
Total Net Assets $39,077 $29,422 $27,536

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities nan nan inf

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%
Endowment Value --
Spending Policy Income Only
Percentage(If selected) --
Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

CEO Comments


Foundation Comments

Summary financial data is per the Form 990 for 2013 and compiled financials for 2011 and 2012 along with consultation with the organization.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.