Information and stories addressing children.

Turkey is a country with major economic influence in the Middle East, and it is ranked as the 17th most prolific economy worldwide. However, data about hunger in Turkey shows that 2.5 percent of the population is undernourished. In fact, hunger in Turkey increased marginally last year, alongside a 3.5 percent increase in poverty.

Causes of Hunger in Turkey

One major cause of hunger in Turkey is the Syrian refugee crisis. Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. With nearly 3.1 million refugees, the government has needed to provide substantial support to its newest migrants. So far, the Turkish government has provided over $10 billion to support the refugees. General migration due to poverty has also caused an increase in hunger in Turkey. In response to the high rates of migration, Turkey’s E.U. Affairs Ministry stated, “Access to food and nutrition is the most fundamental right and this right of migrants should not be violated.” 66 million people have been forced to migrate due to poverty or wars. Turkey houses 26 percent of those people in its region.

Organizations Fighting to Eradicate Hunger in Turkey

Many international organizations have partnered with the Turkish government to assist with the migrants and refugees living in the country. One such organization is the World Food Programme (WFP). The influx of Syrian refugees has put a strain on local markets and infrastructure in Turkey. The WFP has focused on providing cash assistance to refugees to stave off hunger insecurities.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is another organization that has helped issues around hunger in Turkey. IFAD recognized that isolated rural villages in Turkey had a particular need for physical and social infrastructure. Many IFAD projects and loans have worked to improve rural living conditions for families, and specifically, women. Agriculture employs 45 percent of the Turkish workforce, including 90 percent of rural women working outside the home. Through IFAD’s low-interest loans and grants, it develops projects to help rural populations overcome hunger and poverty.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is another organization that has partnered with Turkey to do more to eradicate global hunger. Since Turkey is one of the world’s leaders in agriculture, it can promote new technologies and food availability for countries in need. In the Turkish Partnership Program, Turkey allocated $10 million towards food safety projects. Additionally, Turkey has made significant donations to the WFP. In fact, the WFP sees Turkey as one of its most generous donors. Just a few decades ago, Turkey was receiving significant assistance from the WFP to reduce hunger.

Hope on the Horizon

Even with all of these efforts, hunger in Turkey has been on a steady increase since 2015. The proportion of undernourished individuals has increased as well. Fortunately, since the 1990s, the prevalence of malnourishment in children under five has decreased. The child mortality rate in children under five-years-old due to hunger has also decreased from 14 percent in the 1980s to 1.2 percent in 2019.

Overall, the rate of hunger in Turkey was on a steady decline until the start of the Syrian refugee crisis. Despite some setbacks, Turkey’s promising history with caring for migrants and undernourished populations indicates that these rates may decrease again.

– Mimi Karabulut 

Photo: Flickr

child homelessness in Egypt
Egypt is a presidential republic in North Africa. Famous for its history, archaeological values and vast deserts, Egypt is one of the oldest countries in the world. However, Egypt went through a period of political, societal and economical turmoil during the 2010s. By 2011, former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his office, and between 2011 and 2018, the nation went through multiple presidents. All of this political and societal turmoil contributed to homelessness. In particular, child homelessness in Egypt is a pervasive issue.

Child Homelessness in Egypt

Child homelessness is an issue that has plagued the country for a long time. According to a survey conducted by Egypt’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research, there were an estimated three million homeless children in Egypt in 2011. The Egyptian government took measures to combat child homelessness, however. In 2003, the government adopted a new national strategy that aimed to protect and rehabilitate homeless children, also known as street children. This initiative aimed to alleviate child homelessness in the country through multiple coordinated projects between the government and NGOs.

While this initiative saw a relative amount of success, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead of alleviating child homelessness in Egypt. These homeless children are often in danger of sex trafficking, street begging and forced labor.

Life for Street Children

Poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, child abuse and neglect are some of the main causes of Egypt’s child homelessness crisis. While not all street children lack a stable family and a home to return to, the majority of the street children still live, work and sleep in the streets. A young woman interviewed by France 24 in 2017 said that she left her parents’ house when she was six years old because her father abused her. She has lived on the streets ever since. Unfortunately, this young woman’s story is not uncommon among street children.

However, life on the streets is still harsh. Many people in Egypt view street children as drug-addicts and criminals. As a result, there seems to be a general hesitation in donating to the NGOs and shelters that are trying to assist the homeless street children of Egypt. According to a 2010 study that interviewed a total of 857 street children in Cairo and Alexandria, 93% of the children stated that they faced harassment or abuse on the streets. Furthermore, the study found that 62% of the children used drugs. Among adolescent girls 15 to 17 years old, most of them stated that they had suffered sexual abuse.

Government Efforts

Fortunately, there are programs in place to help the street children of Egypt. In 2016, the government launched a project aimed to build shelters and educate street children. Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity also launched the “Children Without Shelter” program. Ministry workers train street children in first-aid and try to collect any paperwork or identification which they can use to move the children into a shelter. Getting children into shelters is difficult because Egyptian law does not allow shelters to receive children who do not provide a birth certificate.

The government also created the “Protecting Homeless Children” program, which deploys 17 mobile bus teams that provide temporary medical and psychological services. If a child is able to be united with their family, a separate team keeps in touch with the child’s family.

Moving Forward

Street children of Egypt are the ones who are most vulnerable to homelessness in Egypt. These Egyptian street children, who ran away from abuse, neglect and poverty, face harsh realities living on the street. On top of lacking shelter and food, the homeless children of Egypt face discrimination and further abuse on the streets. Thankfully, the Egyptian government is taking measures to alleviate child homelessness in Egypt. Many hope for a future where child homelessness will be a story of the past in Egypt.

-YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small nation located on the coast of West Africa. While the country boasts an abundance of natural resources, it is also a poor nation, with a healthcare system in dire need of improvement. Here are 9 facts about healthcare in Sierra Leone.

9 Facts About Healthcare in Sierra Leone

  1. Sierra Leone has one of the lowest life expectancies on the globe. In 2018, the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone was 54.3 years. This places the nation among the bottom five in the entire world. In comparison, the average global life expectancy is 72.6 years.

  2. Sierra Leone faces high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Similar to life expectancy, infant and maternal fatality rates help gauge the quality of a nation’s health care system. In 2015, 87.1 infants died per 1,000 births in Sierra Leone, while 1,360 mothers died per 100,000 births. In the U.S., just 5.4 infants died per 1,000 births, and only 14 mothers died for every 100,000 births. Birth-related deaths generally occur when there are delays in women seeking, reaching and receiving care.

  3. All people living in Sierra Leone are at risk of malaria. Malaria is endemic to the nation, and poses a great health risk. In fact, four out of every ten hospital visits in Sierra Leone are due to malaria. Children are at particular risk, and the disease contributes to the nation’s high number of child fatalities. However, rates of the illness are falling across the country due to preventative practices such as sleeping under insecticide treated nets. Earlier diagnoses and treatments also contribute to the lowered rates of illness. By the end of 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone hopes to have decreased cases by 40 percent.

  4. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 hit Sierra Leone particularly hard. Despite its relatively small population, there were more cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone than any other country. To be exact, there were a total of 14,124 cases in the country, including nearly 4,000 deaths. The first case was reported in May 2014, and Sierra Leone was not declared Ebola-free until February 2016. According to the World Health Organization, the virus was able to spread so widely due to the weaknesses of the healthcare in Sierra Leone. These weaknesses included too few healthcare workers, not enough oversight and a lack of resources.

  5. Disabled residents face tough conditions. Approximately 450,000 disabled people live in Sierra Leone, including those who were maimed in the decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. The government does not currently provide any assistance to the disabled. Those with disabilities resort to begging on the streets of Freetown, the nation’s capital. Disabled youth turned away from their families (due to the family’s inability to support the youth) often form their own communities on the streets. Employment can also be hard to achieve due to discrimination. Julius Cuffie, a member of Parliament who suffers from polio, brings awareness to the disabled’s struggles. Hoping to bring the disabled’s issues to the forefront, Cuffie pushes for the Persons with Disabilities Act.

  6. Corruption exists in Sierra Leone’s healthcare system. According to a 2015 survey, 84 percent of Sierra Leoneans have paid a bribe just to use government services. Additionally, about a third of the funds given to fight the Ebola crisis are not accounted for. This translates to roughly 11 million pounds, or almost 14 million dollars. Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of about 40 percent. As a result, many health care services overcharge unknowing residents for basic services. A new initiative, put together by the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission, advises residents to report cases of bribery.

  7. In 2010, Sierra Leone began offering free health care. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHCI) aims to decrease the nation’s high maternal, infant and child mortality rate. The government also hopes the initiative improves general health across the country. The ordinance provides a package of free services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five. The program has not been without its challenges, however, due to the aforementioned weaknesses of previous systems of health care in Sierra Leone. That said, the initiative has resulted in a number of positive changes. For example, there has been an increase in the number of healthcare staff, a larger willingness for parents to seek care for their children and a reduction in mortality for those under five.

  8. There has been an increase in efforts to strengthen emergency medical response in Sierra Leone. Road accidents kill thousands each year in the country. In response to this, the First Responder Coalition of Sierra Leone (FRCSL) was created in 2019 to improve the state of urgent medical care. Five national and international groups in Makeni, a city in northern Sierra Leone, founded the coalition. The group aims to provide emergency care, treat the high numbers of injuries and resolve the low amount of pre-hospital treatment in Sierra Leone. In its first two months, the FRSCL trained 1,000 Makeni residents, equipping each one with a first aid kit. The coalition hopes to train 3,500 more in the next six months. It also plans on expanding out of the northern province in the next five years. Hopefully, the FRCSL’s efforts will save thousands of lives from vehicle accidents in the coming years.

  9. CARE is working to improve sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in Sierra Leone. The humanitarian agency began working in the country in 1961. Goals of the organization include providing medical supplies and contraceptives, giving training to healthcare workers and working with the community to eliminate attitudes that prevent women from discovering their rights to sexual and reproductive health. CARE is currently present in approximately 30 percent of the country’s communities, particularly in areas that have high rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. One Sierra Leonean mother, named Fanta, credits CARE with educating her about proper breastfeeding and health practices, leading to the survival and continued health of her daughter.

Healthcare in Sierra Leone is an issue that is complicated by the nation’s high rates of poverty, many endemic diseases and tumultuous political history. While shocking statistics, such as the country’s low life expectancy and high maternal and infant mortality rates paint a grim picture, there are signs of progress being made, and there is potential for much more change on the horizon.

– Joshua Roberts

Photo: Flickr

poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world and boasts an array of natural resources. Despite this, poverty in Madagascar ranks among the highest in the world. Due to an upturn in the economy, things may be looking up, but there is still much work to be done before conditions truly improve. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Poverty in Madagascar

  1. The majority of people in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Currently, 75% of the population of Madagascar lives on less than $1.90 per day. This means that three-fourths of the 25.6 million inhabitants of Madagascar live beneath the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank.
  2. Children are among the hardest hit by poverty in Madagascar. More than 80% of those under 18 in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Additionally, UNICEF declares that chronic malnutrition affects almost half of children under five, with stunted growth being a major concern.
  3. Extreme poverty pushes children in Madagascar into child labor. Approximately 5.7 million children, about half of the population under 18, participate in labor of some kind. Many of these children work instead of attending school. One in four child laborers perform work that is potentially damaging to their health.
  4. The island nation’s unique and isolated geography is also a contributing factor to poverty. For the country’s rural poor, who largely subsist on farming and fishing, climate change has been particularly detrimental. Water levels continue to rise, and Madagascar’s location makes it very susceptible to cyclones. These factors lead to drought and food insecurity in the already poor nation.
  5. Though 80% of Madagascar’s residents live in rural areas, the country is not currently able to sustain itself. Madagascar has to import 15% of essentials like rice and milk. Slash and burn farming techniques and over-farming has led to deforestation on a large scale. Only 10% of Madagascar’s original rainforest is still intact.
  6. Madagascar’s poor infrastructure also negatively affects its economy. Of the more than 30,000 miles of roads in the country, only about 11% are paved. Many of these roads become impossible to pass during the nation’s rainy season. Furthermore, railroads are not in much better shape; there are two unconnected lines in poor condition.
  7. Despite the aforementioned woes, Madagascar has seen rapid economic growth in the past few years. 2018 saw a growth of 5.1%, bringing with it a two percent increase in per capita income. Sectors such as exports, transportation and finance drive this economic growth. However, poverty continues to decrease at a slow rate: only about three percent since 2012. This slow rate most likely results from the majority of population working in agriculture, an industry that has not quite caught up with modern trends.
  8. Water scarcity and sanitation is a significant problem in Madagascar. Only about half of Madagascar’s population has access to clean water. In places with limited access to water, women and girls often bear the brunt of the work of having to collect it. This time-consuming and physically difficult work hinders their ability to attend school and earn income. In Southern Madagascar, 90% of houses lack basic sanitation needs. Open defecation is common, leading to the prevalence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.
  9. WaterAid is an organization that seeks to give everyone across the globe access to clean water, toilets and proper hygiene, including those in Madagascar. The organization launched its water, sanitation and hygiene plan (WASH) in Madagascar, and coordinated with local authorities to improve conditions across the nation. The National Action Plan, launched in 2017, hopes to reduce growth stunting in children under five by nearly 10%, and also aims to increase access to drinking water and proper sanitation, to 65% and 30% of households, respectively.
  10. SEED Madagascar is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works specifically in the Anosy region of Southeast Madagascar. The organization creates projects related to education, community health, environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods. All of SEED’s programs are suggested by the people of Madagascar themselves. Ideally one day, they will independently create and implement projects. In one such project, a 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting system placed on the roof of a primary school in Ambandrika provided clean water for 144 school children and 750 members of the wider community. Additional benefits of SEED’s work include allowing more time to create marketable goods as well as more time to care for children.

Poverty in Madagascar is widespread, and the situation will not improve if it is ignored. Economic growth and organizations like SEED Madagascar and WaterAid are taking important steps, but the issue must continue to be addressed.

– Joshua Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Belize
Belize, a Central American country with a poverty rate of about 41.3 percent, struggles with the effects that poverty has on children. Of the Belizeans in poverty, approximately 40 percent of them are children. Income inequality and rapid population growth contribute to the high poverty rate. Child labor rates, poor health care and child prostitution are the primary factors playing into the rate of child poverty in Belize. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), UNICEF and the government are compounding efforts to reduce child poverty in Belize.

Nongovernmental Organization (NGOs) Efforts

Humanium is an NGO that enables donors to sponsor children in Belize and many other countries. Humanium emerged in Geneva in 2008 to improve the wellbeing of children worldwide. The child’s family can afford numerous basics, including better health care and education. Since 40 percent of families are in poverty, some children must work to aid in providing for the family. About 6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work to provide for the family. Also, 36 percent of Belize’s population is 0-14 years of age; the high child poverty rate is a fair representation of the country’s overall poverty rate.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

In a U.N. report, Wilfred Elrington stated that child poverty in Belize was nearly 40 percent. Elrington further commented on how “[poverty] affects [the] capacity to learn. It affects [children’s] capacity to maintain good health.” While there are many NGOs in Belize that assist Belizean adults and children in poverty, Elrington and other officials stated that people should do more to solve the high poverty rate in the country.

UNICEF in Belize

UNICEF representative Susan Kasedde mentioned that education initiatives are a possible solution to poverty and violence. Both education improvements and higher enrollment could reduce poverty in Belize while simultaneously solving violence that affects local and major tourist industries. Based on the homicide rate in 2018, Belize remains one of the most violent countries in the world. UNICEF’s Children’s Agenda 2017-2030 aims to support children on the path to living a safe, healthy and successful life in Belize. The program also focuses on disadvantaged groups that are people often forget, such as those in remote regions with high poverty.

Investments in Education

As of 2017, the Government of Belize spent about 7 percent of its GDP on education, which places Belize in the top 10 in the world for education expenditure. This indicates that the country is utilizing education as a path to reducing adult and child poverty in Belize. Universal education for all children has the potential to help reduce poverty in children and future generations as a study showed in the Asian Economic and Financial Review. The case study in Nigeria found that higher education led to a decline in youth poverty in Nigeria. Poverty in Nigeria was significantly higher at 70 percent; the research shows the possible benefit of investment in education to reduce poverty. 

In January 2020, the Inter-American Development Bank provided a $10 million loan to reduce child poverty in Belize. It will go towards the creation of a STEAM Lab School in Belize City. One of the goals of this school is to improve the quality of primary and secondary classrooms. Another goal is to improve gender equity from a young age, specifically in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths courses. With child poverty in Belize at an estimated 40 percent, investments in education could be a long-term solution to improve the country’s high child poverty.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Illiteracy in Nepal
Nepal is a country of Asia that lies along the southern side of the Himalayas. It is a landlocked nation with a territory of just 500 miles east to west. Nepal has long experienced isolation under a series of rulers who favored isolationist policies and remained closed off to the rest of the world up until the year 1905. Today, Nepal is a country between two superpowers, India and China. As a result of this extreme isolation, it has become one of the least developed nations in the world. This underdevelopment has also led to a heavily illiterate population. Here are seven interesting facts about illiteracy in Nepal.

7 Facts About Illiteracy in Nepal

  1. Illiteracy in Nepal: As recently as 2015, Nepal had an illiterate population of 6,784,566 people. Luckily this statistic has been on a steady decline of about 2 percent every year since 1991.
  2. Literacy in Nepal: Nepal’s literate population in 2015 was at 55 percent. Although this means that just under half the population is illiterate, it is still an extremely large increase from the 1950s, during which only 5 percent of the population was literate.
  3. Women: Only 49 percent of women in Nepal are literate. The average literacy rate for women in Nepal is 20 percent lower than men. This may be a result of fewer women completing a full education than men, a statistic that is slowly becoming more equal and challenging illiteracy in Nepal.
  4. World Vision: Thankfully, literacy rates in Nepal are rising. An organization called World Vision has been working to eliminate illiteracy in Nepal. World Vision has been training teachers in Nepal to use more engaging methods to get their students more interested in reading.
  5. Reading Camps: World Vision has also created reading camps outside of school, in addition to encouraging parents to nurture a reading friendly environment in their homes so students are more willing to read. In just two years, the children involved in the program were one and a half times better at reading than children who did not attend the program.
  6. Room to Read: Another organization, Room to Read, has created a Girls’ Education Program that has helped nearly 5,000 girls in Nepal since 2001 to read and write. Children in Nepali schools with Room to Read libraries have checked out, on average, more than 16 books per student. Room to Read has been a catalyst in helping many children to appreciate reading.
  7. Five-Year Initiative: In 2016, Room to Read launched a five year initiative with the government of Nepal, USAID and the research group RTI International to improve the country’s primary grade literacy programs greatly. This initiative has the goal of changing the lives of 1 million students in grades one to three in order to combat illiteracy in Nepal.

Illiteracy in Nepal is an issue that has significantly decreased due to the actions of these, and many other programs and initiatives, all with the goal of improving literacy rates in Nepal. If it were not for groups like Room to Read and World Vision, the people, and especially the children, would still be stuck in the darkness of illiteracy.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Education in North Korea
North Korea is a prime example of a hermit kingdom and one of the last remaining communist states. The centralized ideology and oppressive domestic policy closed the society off from the rest of the world, shrouding itself with mystery. How is it possible for the Kim dynasty to maintain its ruling power for so long despite international skepticism? The answer may lie in the careful censorship and indoctrination of the education that shapes the minds of its citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Education in North Korea is free and mandatory until the secondary level. North Korea requires students to attend one year of preschool before enrolling in four years of primary school, known as “people’s school.” Depending on their specialties, the students will proceed to either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. The North Korean education curricula consist of subjects in both academic and political matters. Subjects such as the Korean language, physical education, mathematics and arts make up the majority of instruction in people’s school. North Korea devotes over 8 percent of instruction to the teaching of the “Great Kim Il Sung” and “Communist Morality.” The teaching of these political subjects comprises 5.8 percent of instruction when students get to senior middle schools.
  3. Education in North Korea has claimed the highest literacy rates in the world. There are statistics that claim that all North Koreans over 15 years of age have a 100 percent literacy rate. However, actual statistics might be lower.
  4. Children learn to love and believe in the godlike virtues of the ruling Kim family as early as kindergarten. By the age of 5, North Korean children devote two hours each week to learning about their leaders. By the time they get to secondary school, students spend six classes per week on the subject. The schools and textbooks often tell outlandish stories about the Kim family to deify them. For example, one story tells of how Kim Il-Sung made grenades with pinecones, bullets and sand. Another story tells of how Kim Il-Sung used teleportation when he annihilated the Japanese.
  5. A lot of education in North Korea is propaganda. The system indoctrinates citizens into the system and teaches them to idolize the Kim family as revolutionaries. Distortion of history is another means that the government uses to legitimize the dictatorial regime and accentuate the claims of North Korean greatness. With the careful censorship of outside information, it is not difficult for the regime to change contemporary Korean history or to glorify the Kim family.
  6. Admission to universities is selective and competitive in North Korea. Only students who receive recommendations from their instructors are able to continue their studies at the university level. To receive recommendations, the students must have good senior middle school grades, be from a desirable social class and show high loyalty to the party. Those without recommendations instead go to work in the farms or mines or join the military.
  7. Students start learning foreign languages in secondary school. The most common language is English and then Russian. As the government deems the textbooks from the United Kingdom and Russia as containing too much “dangerous” information, North Korea uses its own textbooks. However, the quality of education is poor as the textbooks have poor writing and include mistakes. Students learn phrases such as “Long live Great Leader Generalissimo Kim Il-sung” before “Hello, how are you?”
  8. Education in North Korea continues even for adults. In rural areas, North Korea organizes people into five-family teams. Schoolteachers or other intellectuals supervise the people for surveillance and educational purposes. Office and factory workers also have to attend study sessions after work each day for two hours. They have to study both technical and political subjects.
  9. North Korea has a special purpose school for children from the elite class and gifted children. Depending on their specialties, children enter one of the four types of schools for special purposes. These include the revolutionary school (also known as the elite school), schools for arts and sports, schools for foreign language and schools for science.
  10. Private tutors or other forms of paying for education in North Korea is technically illegal. The state only trusts itself to properly indoctrinate the young minds into the communist regime. However, since the famine in the 1990s, families have had to provide some type of payment for teachers in order for them to show up to work. This can involve paying money, providing firewood or helping teachers harvest crops. Tutoring has evolved within the grey economy of North Korea as a means for state-school teachers to make ends meet. The regime is willing to turn a blind eye as long as the teachers are not too ostentatious about it.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea shows the important role of education in indoctrinating citizens and instilling in them unconditional loyalty to the regime. As long as education in North Korea continues to be this way, it is likely that the nation will continue to suffer from the tyranny and suppression from its great leaders.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Muay Thai for Children
In Thailand, children as young as 13 years old have died competing in kickboxing matches known as Muay Thai. Many children take part in this demanding sport because this is often the only way their families can climb out of poverty. Kickboxing matches in Thailand occur in rural areas and competitors usually do not wear protective gear. However, the deaths and life-long injuries that the sport has inflicted on competing children have inspired a debate on the dangers of kickboxing for children in Thailand. Here is some information that contextualizes Thailand’s debate on Muay Thai for children.

The Current Situation

Currently, the debate over Muay Thai for children has led legislators in Thailand to consider proposals that may raise the age or facilitate using more protective gear for fighters. A major risk for competitors is brain damage or death. On the other hand, families in rural areas oppose this proposal because it could jeopardize their ability to put food on the table. Child kickboxers in Thailand can win up to $150 SDG in one match, the equivalent of about $111 USD if they are professional fighters or are competing in a prestigious competition. For small bouts, in which most Thai children compete, the pay is far less, with the maximum being the equivalent of $60.

Although $60 may seem like a trivial amount, for some families, this sum makes a significant difference in their lives. These winnings are equivalent to almost half of one month’s salary in rural and impoverished areas. Hence, many of the child fighters in Thailand find themselves in matches to ensure they make enough money. Another avenue is to start competing at a very young age so that by the time they are teenagers, they may be able to generate enough income as a professional fighter in Muay Thai.

The Price They Pay

Alongside the newly earned money from Muay Thai competitions, there are still prices the families and children of Thailand have to pay. The competitors and their families must face the constant reality of death and brain damage. According to a study by Thailand’s Mahidol University, permitting children under 15 to box could result in various types of brain damage, such as brain hemorrhages, which could lead to stroke-like symptoms or death if the fighters succumb to the injuries. No matter their age, the lack of protective gear for the fighters prevails as the major cause of injuries during competitions.

The Government’s Response

In response to the recent deaths and the brain damage that has taken place among the youth of Thailand, legislators have found themselves drafting bills that will bar children from participating in Muay Thai kickboxing matches if they are 12 or under.

Currently, the only measure in place to offer safety towards children who kickbox is that boxers must be 15 or older to compete. However, younger fighters are still able to engage as long as there is parental permission, which is why many young children are losing their lives to the sport as there are no enforced restrictions.

What Must Change

A solution to ensure that child fighters remain safe while making a steady income for their families may be for fighters aged 15 or younger to use headgear. Through the debate regarding Muay Thai for children in Thailand, it may be valuable for kickboxing enthusiasts to understand that while including headgear may not provide the same entertaining result, it is vital so that children may win the money necessary from their competitions while also being protected from trauma to their still-developing brains.

Gowri Abhinanda
Photo: Flickr

Education for Tea Pickers' Children in Sri Lanka 
Tea is the number one export of Sri Lanka, accounting for around $1.67 billion in revenue. This business creates jobs for about 5 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Tea picking includes the whole family, who often live in housing just off the plantation. As a result, access to education for the tea pickers’ children can be difficult or non-existent.

Sending kids to local schools is also not an option since most families either do not have a method of transportation, or their children are already working in the fields by the age of 13. Despite the fact that tea pickers are the skeleton of the economy, the majority of these tea workers are overworked and underpaid, meaning children often grow up in this same cycle of oppression. Two companies are trying to change this: Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe. Both are successfully paving the way for a better future by providing tea pickers’ children access to education.

Why Does Education Matter?

Education changes the lives of the people in these tea picking communities. Education can target domestic violence, hopelessness and poverty through learning skills such as professionalism and proficiency in English. By encouraging young people to be role models in their community and instilling a sense of hope and confidence in them, they are able to break out of the tea business and choose their own paths. Families in these communities view education for their children as a means to escape poverty. Without education, many children often commit suicide or self-harm. Suicide rates on plantations are the fourth highest in the world.

Tea Leaf Trust

Started in 2007, Tea Leaf Trust is a company that strives to create a way out for children living in tea picking communities. Alcoholism, malnutrition and disease/lack of sanitation surround many of these communities. Families of six to eight members must live in barrack-type homes which often have no windows and no means of ventilation. The conditions these families are living in hinders their ability to learn in school settings. The main way Tea Leaf Trust is improving conditions is by giving tea pickers’ children access to education, providing a future for both them and their families.

Tea Leaf Trust raised money to start a school to give tea pickers’ children access to education. This school, called Tea Leaf Vision, offers advanced diplomas for people who train and learn to become teachers and two-thirds go on to a university to earn their degrees or get a job off the plantation. Those enrolled in the advanced diploma allocate time to teach the English Community Programme at primary schools on the tea plantations as a part of their own schooling.

Schools in these communities are open once a week at 24 locations. Between 1,600 and 1,900 children attend these schools. These schools offer classes such as Business Studies, English Grammar and Emotional Health. Their focus is twofold: instilling a sense of value and purpose in youth through education and providing community service. Tea Leaf Trust also have plans to open a vocational center in the coming years. This will allow the students to not only learn within their community but also gain skills to move forward in their lives.

Kindernothilfe

Kindernothilfe, German for “supporting children in need,” is a company founded in Germany in 1959. Through its partnership with local NGOs, it has implemented 609 projects in 32 countries. In Sri Lanka, its focus is mainly on women and children, both of whom are often victims of violence and abuse.

Kindernothilfe wants to provide tea pickers’ children access to education. This program, founded in 2005, started its partnership with the Eksath Lanka Welfare Foundation. It now has around 80 children and 60 women enrolled in its program. This includes two children’s clubs where children grow their personal skills. The program also provides funding to children who have previously dropped out of school, allowing them to continue their education for free.

Kindernothilfe also offers an empowerment class to women in these communities. This is where they can discuss their situations, talk through how to manage their household and understand and counsel their children on domestic violence and children’s rights.

Uniformity and Equality of Education

There is a great need for quality education in Sri Lanka and not just in tea picking communities. The education sector is lacking in providing quality criteria and curriculums. Schools on plantations (if they exist at all) lack the most basic equipment and have teachers who are undereducated themselves. A reduction in poverty can be a result of proper education. Poverty is only 18 percent for those with an education, rising to 46 percent for households without an education.

Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe are just two examples of foundations that have stepped in to fill the gaps. They want to assist in providing educational assistance for those who lack it and change the lives of Sri Lankan tea picker’s children.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Kershaw’s Challenge's Impact
In 2011, LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and wife Ellen Kershaw started Kershaw’s Challenge, a faith-based, nonprofit organization. They founded the organization with the goal of encouraging people to use their talents to give back to people in need. Nine years later with the same goal at heart, Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic continues to grow through Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission.

While Kershaw’s Challenge focused solely on Zambia at its start, it expanded to focus on Dallas and Los Angeles in 2012 and in 2015, widened its reach to the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the organization announced its partnerships with Both Ends Believing and International Justice Mission, focusing on the Dominican Republic. Both Clayton and Ellen felt led to serve the Dominican Republic because they knew many fellow baseball players and teammates from the country.

Both Ends Believing (BEB)

In May 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced Both Ends Believing (BEB) as its new beneficiary. BEB’s mission is to “see every child grown up in a family” and has implemented Child First software to accomplish this.

According to SOS Children’s Villages, nearly 578,000 children under the age of 15 in the Dominican Republic are without parental care. Child pregnancy, chronic disease and mental or physical disabilities are among the factors that lead children to be at risk of being without care.

Through BEB’s software, it is able to identify children living in situations where they are vulnerable or at risk of neglect. BEB is then able to form a plan to get children out of these situations and into a loving home.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has continued through its support of Both Ends Believing. Its partnership with BEB also has a focus on Zambia, its other international beneficiary.

International Justice Mission (IJM)

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge announced International Justice Mission (IJM) as its new beneficiary, focusing on efforts combatting human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Several months earlier, Clayton and Ellen Kershaw traveled to the Dominican Republic alongside IJM. While there, they had the opportunity to meet with the Dominican Republic’s President, Danilo Medina, and they discussed the exploitation of children in the area. They were also able to visit Santo Domingo’s red-light district where they spent an afternoon playing baseball with survivors of sex trafficking. They even spent a night undercover in Boca Chica, where they saw trafficking first-hand.

According to the International Justice Mission, human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is mainly street-based, where customers can purchase young girls very easily. IJM has rescued more than 120 children and young women and has restrained more than 30 criminals since it opened its field office in the Dominican Republic back in 2013.

Through its partnership with IJM, Kershaw’s Challenge hopes to focus on the rescue and restoration of survivors, the restraint of suspects and the conviction of traffickers in the Dominican Republic. The organization also wants to help improve aftercare and investigation programs.

7th Annual PingPong4Purpose

In August 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge hosted its seventh Annual PingPong4Purpose, where it had a Giving Wall that raised funds for a rescue mission through IJM. A portion of the proceeds also went to Both Ends Believing, as well as its other national beneficiaries.

Kershaw’s Challenge’s impact on the Dominican Republic has been great through both International Justice Mission and Both Ends Believing, as both organizations remain a special cause for both Clayton and Ellen. Kershaw’s Challenge plans to announce its 2020 beneficiaries on Opening Day, March 26, 2020. People can donate to Kershaw’s Challenge directly through its website, and can also support the organization through buying merchandise or attending events.

 – Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr