I live in a third world country.
That’s a fact. A fact that I sometimes forget even though the signs of it are everywhere. It’s easy to brush aside the huge problem of poverty in our country. It is easy to assume that it’s the government’s role and it’s really not our problem.
Recently, I was reminded that we can make a dent in the problem if we cared enough to try.
My husband and I visited a community project called the Community Scouts. The Community Scouts is geared towards rehabilitating juvenile delinquents. My husband and I met a few of the residents of the project. Their stories are all hauntingly similar. They all were born to uneducated parents with too many children, ranging from 8 to 10 children per household. They all fell into a life of petty crime at a young age because of lack of guidance and boredom. Since their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school, they were made to beg or sell knick-knacks on the street. As they grew older, they fell into the tantalizing world of gangs with the promise of an easy buck.
The young men talked about being caught by the police as juveniles and instead of being sent to the jails, they were brought to the Community Scouts. They came into the project without even knowing how to read. At the Community Scouts, they were given strict schedules and responsibilities. They had to clean, cook and care for their surroundings in addition to their schooling schedules. They all proudly demonstrated that after a few years in the project, they all know how to read with confidence. They are all proud about being group leaders. They were all given goals and a direction in their life and they all are obviously happy. Even though they are juvenile delinquents, they are not required to stay at the center. They are free to leave but they choose to stay. All of them are aiming for an elementary school diploma.
We also had the chance to visit a project called HLPP that aims to provide over-aged underprivileged people a chance to earn their high school diplomas for free. 100 students are currently enrolled in the project which also teaches the students technical skills in order to get employment after receiving their diploma. They also provide assistance for the students who are academically inclined to find scholarships to pursue further education. Most of the students accepted in the HLPP program come from dysfunctional families. They are usually products of abuse or neglect, some of them were actually rescued from human trafficking syndicates, so the project also provides spiritual and emotional support to help them become good members of society.
In this country where majority of the population are living below the poverty line, projects like these are a ray of hope for a lot of children in what seems to be an impenetrable mire of poverty and to improve their quality of life.
As a mother, my heart aches for all of the children who can’t even get their basic human rights to food, shelter, or clothing on a regular basis, much less get an education. I fear for the future of a country who can’t even care for their young in the right way.
I didn’t know projects like the Community Scouts and HLPP even existed a few weeks ago. It’s heartening for me to witness that some good-hearted souls have taken it upon themselves to find ways to help change lives. These projects have the potential to provide long-term change, not just a temporary relief from poverty.
I went back home to hug my happy, healthy kids that day and looked at the blessings I have with different eyes. I told my kids about how many poor children have to live with so little. As a family, we started compiling toys and books that we can donate. We brought our kids back to the Community scouts with our donations and they saw the children housed there first hand.
My daughter commented on how they were so small even though some of them were older than she was. I told her it’s because they didn’t have enough to eat growing up. I told her that most of them don’t even know how to read and are just learning. She found it hard to grasp because an education was something she took for granted.
I explained to the kids that we should help the poor whenever we can because every little thing we do is already a huge thing for them.
It was a good lesson for them to learn. It was a good lesson for me to remember.