Whether a small village here in the Philippines or an inner-city in New York, history has shown that one of the most impactful ways to break the cycle of poverty is through education.
The United Nations recognizes there is no universal definition of poverty that can be applied to all nations. Poverty can mean shortage on financial resources and goods, or it can mean the lack of access to basic services, such as healthcare and education.
But we know that poverty and disadvantage can limit the opportunities for millions of children in vulnerable communities. And while aid in the form of food, water and shelter can provide much-needed basic support, access to education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
What is the cycle of poverty?
Indigent families in vulnerable communities often quit sending their children to school and have them begin working menial jobs to help support the family. As a result, children don’t learn important literacy and numeracy skills and are limited to unskilled, low paying jobs where they are often misused and exploited. With limited opportunities to earn better incomes, the cycle of poverty continues.
There are many factors that are so simple and low cost yet prevent children from going to school. Here in the Philippines, especially where we are at, many children do not go to school because of the requirement of wearing uniforms to school. Although many educators simply ignore this requirement and allow children to attend school without uniform, children are simply too ashamed to go because they stick like a sore thumb and other children will most likely make fun of them for not being able to afford a uniform. And worst, some teachers may even deduct their grades for not wearing uniform.
Lunch and transportation are another factors that prevent disadvantaged children from going to school. According to UN estimates, over 783 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day and the situation will only get worse if the right steps are not taken now. Sending a child to school means sending a child with some kind of food or even money for lunch and fares. A student's one kilometer ride on a tricyle cost $0.20 and a simple lunch can cost $0.25. This is for an elementary student, it almost doubled when it is for high school and even higher for a college student.
Other simple factors are extra curricular activities from the school such as school projects and contributions. Contributions taken by the teachers in school are parents' contribution for things like electric fans and teaching equipment such as TVs and dry erase boards. Schools in the Philippines are not well funded by the government. Educators spend out of their own pockets to buy teaching materials. National government funding is very politicized and Department of Education will always take the back seat for other government projects that will benefit those who are in power.
Indigent families are left in the disadvantage and do not have equal access to basic yet critical service of education. Uneducated parents with uneducated children will go spiraling down in a vicious cycle of poverty. They will not learn valuable life skills such as reading, writing, and numeracy. They will be easily exploited and persuaded to do immoral and illegal things which will send them even deeper into poverty.
But what happens when we support disadvantaged children and communities in pursuing education? What happens when these children learn valuable life skills through education? The trajectory of their life changes. Their community is also impacted when they come of age and are able to give back to their community in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.
Breaking the cycle of poverty
At the Dream Center, our mission is to provide scholarship and free resources such as free computer use and internet access to indigent families to support their children who are eager to learn and gain the skills required to lead healthy and productive lives. Our program’s goal is to empowers disadvantaged children to break the cycle of poverty. We are transforming communities; a student, a family at a time!
We believe that it is injustice that the poor do not have equal access or opportunity to education. And we believe that we are called to "do justice" (Micah 6:8) and that God execute justice to the needy (Psalms 140:12). God loves justice for He is a just God.
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
So if you want to donate — if you want to give back in a way that is truly impactful on the world — give toward education. You will be helping break the stronghold of poverty to a family and you will set them on their way to transform their family and their community. Give the gift that changes lives and communities over multiple generations. Then, sit back and watch as your seemingly small gift empowers a family to help themselves rise above poverty.