Marcus Rashford's Campaign
Many know Marcus Rashford for his role on the soccer field as a player for the famous Manchester United team. However, Rashford is also an activist in the fight against child poverty in the United Kingdom. With 22% of people and 30% of children in Britain living in poverty, this is an important issue, especially with the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Coming from a background of poverty himself, Rashford’s campaign has been a passionate voice for the impoverished youth.

Combating Hunger Among Children

One of Rashford’s most significant passions is combating child hunger. In June 2020, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the soccer star launched a campaign asking the government to continue using food vouchers for students during summer vacations. For many impoverished children, school lunches are a necessary resource to receive proper daily nutrition. Marcus Rashford’s campaign provided vouchers to underprivileged families, allowing children and families to access school lunches and groceries during the summer. Additionally, he raised £20 million with FareShare, a U.K. organization that has provided 131.9 million meals to charities and vulnerable people.

The public has shown fantastic support for Marcus Rashford’s campaign. During his initial campaign, the government rejected his ideas. However, the people rallied in his support, causing the government to backtrack, providing 1.3 million students with meal vouchers for a six-week summer break period. His October 2020 petition calling for the government to extend free school meals to other vacations and expand eligibility garnered over 500,000 signatures. Although this request was not successful, local businesses followed with their support, even businesses that the pandemic hit hard. Additionally, Rashford used his Twitter account, with more than 3.5 million followers, as a directory of food banks, providing valuable information for those the government denied food.

Educational Resources

Along with his work against child food poverty, Rashford has also worked to provide underprivileged children with educational resources. Rashford has said he only started reading at age 17 because his family never had the budget for it. After learning that over 380,000 children in the U.K. never owned a book of their own, Rashford sought to change that. In the fall of 2020, he launched a book club with Macmillian’s Children’s Books that provide the books to children. Through Marcus Rashford’s campaign, thousands of children now have access to a new hobby that they have previously viewed as a privilege.

In May 2021, the Sunday Times Giving List notably recognized Rashford as the youngest person to top their list of British philanthropists. This accolade was due to Rashford’s generous donations to various food, poverty and community charities. The soccer player has raised over £20 million in donations, putting his “Giving Index” rating at 125%; his wealth is £16 million. Due to the additional waves of COVID-19, there is a high demand for donations.

Marcus Rashford has proven himself to be a valuable contributor both on and off the field. Through his hard work and dedication, millions of children across the U.K. have had access to food and books. With his substantial passion, Rashford shows no signs of slowing down in his philanthropic efforts.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Study Hall Educational Foundation
Numerous studies have indicated a strong association between poverty and education. Out-of-school rates are the highest in poor countries such as India. Poverty and a lack of education have an inextricable connection, creating a vicious cycle difficult to escape. Illiteracy and lack of schooling keep young people from obtaining better-paying jobs as adults, making it near impossible to ever rise up from poverty. In low-income countries, girls are more likely to withdraw from school — or never attend — than boys. However, the organization, Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), is transforming the lives of girls in India.

Daughters Cannot Attend School

There are several reasons why many girls in India do not have access to education. In rural areas, even if school is free, parents must pay for books and transportation. Parents typically believe educating girls is a waste of money, and would rather have them contribute to family income.

Often, girls stay home to look after younger siblings. Additionally, many end up in early marriages as soon as they reach puberty against their will. These factors could explain why the literacy rate for males 15 and older in India is above 82%, while for girls and women, it is barely 66%. Yet just one extra year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 10%, thereby helping to raise her out of poverty.

Help for Girls in India

A nonprofit organization is working to change these daunting statistics. Study Hall Educational Foundation has a history of transforming the lives of Indian girls. Through a network of model schools and outreach programs, it promotes girls’ rights, enabling their access to schooling. Foundation administrators believe a lack of education directly affects a girl’s future ability to earn good wages and to escape poverty.

Urvashi Sahni, Study Hall’s founder, is an activist who became married as a teenager. She had two daughters by her early 20s, and later lost her sister tragically — burned to death over a dowry dispute. It was that anger and frustration that inspired Sahni to found Study Hall. Her work to promote gender equality and education has impacted more than 5 million children, according to the Foundation.

A prime example of Study Hall’s pioneering work is the Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Founded in 2003, its enrollment has grown to more than 1,000, providing accessible and affordable education to girls from marginalized, low-income communities — most of whom would not have the opportunity to study otherwise. Many of the girls come from local slums, working as domestic help for neighbors. Although many also come from abusive homes, that fact has not abated their excitement to study and eventually join the professional workforce.

From Slums to Orchards

Another Study Hall program is GyanSetu — or Bridge of Learning — a network of support centers operating from small huts in slums and rural mango orchards. Children attend an accelerated learning program before enrolling in formal schools while continuing to receive supplementary education and support.

Increasing schooling among those 15 or older by just two years would allow nearly 60 million to rise out of poverty, according to UNESCO. That has a better chance of happening thanks to programs like those administered by Study Hall Educational Foundation, helping Indian girls have a better life.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Hippopx

Julian Lennon’s White Feather Foundation: Improving Children's Literacy Rates
Julian Lennon, a well-known singer, songwriter and filmmaker, is also a philanthropist who created the White Feather Foundation (TWFF). Lennon founded TWFF in 2007, and the organization addresses humanitarian issues. Recently, the World Literacy Foundation announced that Lennon and his Foundation would be honored for work done to improve children’s literacy rates, especially in still-developing nations and among those who cannot afford an education.

Julian Lennon’s Path to The Foundation

The Foundation’s ideals, and its name, come from the same source: Julian Lennon’s father, John Lennon. A white feather is typically a symbol of peace and goodwill. Before his death, John Lennon told his son that one day he would receive a message as a white feather, and it would be a way of letting Julian know that his father was at peace.

Then on tour in Australia, Julian met with a tribe of aboriginals, the Mirning tribe, and they asked for his help to tell the story of their tribe. As an offering, they presented him with a white feather, and Lennon recognized it as a symbol of peace. Inspired and motivated, he helped the tribe create a documentary to tell their history, with all proceeds going to the tribe. From there, the White Feather Foundation was born.

About The White Feather Foundation

The White Feather Foundation promotes and funds clean water projects, efforts dedicated to improving child literacy rates and work to address humanitarian issues across the globe. Lennon has authored several books, the proceeds of many going to help the foundation or the programs it runs. Money that Lennon’s work acquires helps fund TWFF. The organization is entirely nonprofit and is a non-government organization as well.

TWFF has countless projects running. As of October 2021, it had programs including a clean water project in Cameroon and a campaign for earthquake relief in Nepal. In addition, TWFF continuously has applications for Cynthia Lennon’s Scholarship for Girls.

Improved Children’s Education

The Cynthia Lennon Scholarship for Girls is awarded based on location and need. Lennon established the scholarship in 2015 after the passing of Cynthia Lennon, his mother. Julian added the Cynthia Lennon Scholarship to the Foundation’s recurring programs to honor her memory.

As a result of the scholarship, TWFF has sent almost 40 girls to school since 2015. Working with different projects, the scholarship aims to fulfill “educational support” for girls. It has covered housing, uniforms, textbooks and transportation. It funds all years of high school or continued education for each girl. This scholarship has worked to improve female child literacy rates since 2015.

 Improving Girls’ Education and Literacy Rates

In Kenya, children receive free primary and secondary education, but economic costs weigh down the ability to attend secondary school, potentially in costs like textbooks. Moreover, girls have historically been disadvantaged in completing their education, which has been particularly notable during the pandemic. In Kenya, girls can face challenges from pregnancy to sexual violence, damaging educational prospects as a consequence.

TWFF has begun funding girls’ educations in Kenya, working to further a growing trend regarding the gender gap in schools. Between 2015-2020, the female population in schools surpassed the male population. Between 2000-2018, the youth literacy rates have improved, especially in closing the gender gap.

In 2007, girls’ childhood literacy rates stood at 81.6% and boys’ at 82.3%. In 2014, the rates were 86.1% and 86.6% respectively. Then, in 2018, a few years into the funding provided by TWFF, the rates grew to 88.1% and 87.6% respectively.

The World Literacy Foundation Award

As recognition for efforts toward improvements in child literacy and education across the globe, the World Literacy Foundation (TWLF) honored Julian Lennon and TWFF with the World Literacy Award. The Award works to “[p]ut a spotlight on people and organizations who are doing exemplary and innovative work in the literacy sector.”

This award comes from a panel of 16 judges, who deemed Lennon’s work crucial and worthy of recognition. One judge, Lord Julian Fellows, stated that “Literacy is the ticket to learning, opportunity, and empowerment.”

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Schools for Africa InitiativeImplemented in 2004, the Schools for Africa initiative is a unified effort among organizations such as UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society. The program specifically aims to improve access to education for the most marginalized and disadvantaged children in Africa as a means of promoting social and economic mobility through learning. Schools for Africa helps Africa advance by increasing access to “quality education in 21 countries across Africa.” Since education reduces poverty, the Schools for Africa initiative provides benefits that are far-reaching.

Supporting Education in Africa

The education initiative prioritizes fundamental elements of educational standards and accessibility in countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe by funding improvements to the existing education system. Specifically, the initiative aims to construct and restore almost 1,000 schools. Furthermore, the initiative prioritizes training 100,000 teachers and supplying educational resources to schools.

The initiative also ensures clean drinking water for children and gender-separate bathrooms for students. Schools for Africa prioritizes the education of vulnerable students such as orphans, girls and extremely impoverished children. The program knocks down barriers to education, such as scarcity of economic resources, and helps lessen economic gaps throughout Africa.

Other Supporters of Schools for Africa

Organizations such as the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International have supported the Schools for Africa initiative, spreading awareness about the importance of education for children and fundraising for the cause. The Society views its contribution to the program as a critical step in fostering an inclusive and safe atmosphere for children who are particularly vulnerable, such as impoverished children and those without parents.

In 2008, the UNICEF Office for Croatia joined the Schools for Africa program, prioritizing educational improvement in Croatia by working with “kindergartens, schools and centers for education all over Croatia.” Croatia also aims to improve educational access across Africa. The UNICEF Office for Croatia and Croatian communities garnered more than six million Croatian kunas “for the education of children in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.”

Education for Poverty Reduction

In many African countries, natural disasters, insufficient infrastructure and a lack of professional training for teaching staff contribute to low school attendance for many children. For example, only a third of the teaching staff in Madagascar have adequate training. Furthermore, the Madagascan school attendance rate is exceptionally low in contrast to more developed countries. Now more than ever, it is important to acknowledge the economic inequity that correlates with low school attendance. Supporting the Schools for Africa initiative shows a commitment to reducing poverty in Africa since education and poverty are interlinked.

The Schools for Africa Initiative is now able to reach more than 30 million children. The efforts of the initiative ensure that children possess the skills and knowledge to advance and prosper in their lives ahead. Through education, children are empowered and cycles of poverty are broken.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

Global Teacher Prize
Ranjitsinh Disale received the Global Teacher Prize in December 2020. Disale is a 32-year-old schoolteacher in Paritewadi, a village located in a rural area of Western India. The Varkey Foundation named Ranjitsinh Disale the most inspirational teacher of 2020 for various reasons. Additionally, he remodeled the area’s school system, optimized pupils’ learning process and empowered teenage girls.

Celebrating Teachers Around the World

The Varkey Foundation collaborates with UNESCO to award the Global Teacher Prize to educators around the world. This Foundation believes that education should be at the center of social and humanitarian issues. According to the Varkey Foundation, education “has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict.” The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million grant that goes to one educator every year to celebrate their contributions to education and, by extension, world peace.

The Varkey Foundation underscores the impact of the Global Teacher Prize on local and international levels. As education shapes future generations, it is crucial to invest in teaching and improve educational systems on a global scale. Thus, the Global Teacher Prize has always received important media coverage. Moreover, the Global Teacher Prize inauguration obtained international support from Prince William, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates in 2014. International media supports the foundation’s goals and is crucial for the Global Teacher Prize. It recognizes the essential nature of education-related professions. Overall, the Global Teacher Prize awarded more than 40 national rewards to teachers and educators all around the world. For instance, 17 countries and states created awards celebrating local teachers in 2017.

The 2020 World’s Most Inspirational Teacher

Ranjitsinh Disale greatly contributed to the educational and cultural structures he worked in. Shortly after arriving in the small village of Paritewadie, he learned the local language. He then translated the textbooks used in his classes to improve his students’ ability to study efficiently. The 2020 laureate showed dazzling commitment to his profession. For example, he used technology to transform the educational system. He made PowerPoint presentations to expose his students to the outside world. Furthermore, he showed YouTube videos, songs and movies to his students on his personal laptop. Others best knew Disale for embedding QR codes into the students’ books so they could use videos and poems while studying a specific lesson.

One of the main challenges Ranjitsinh Disale encountered as a teacher was the lack of access to education for teenage girls. The schoolteacher used interactive and digital versions of his own lessons to reach girls who were staying at home. In addition, he personally advocated against teenage marriages. According to the Varkey Foundation, the schoolteacher transformed the entire village’s system. The organization stated, “The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary. There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school.”

Hope for the Future

Disale’s contributions to world peace do not stop here. The schoolteacher recently took part in the Let’s Cross the Borders and Live Together project. This international project aims to create a network between young people living in conflict zones to raise global awareness and build international solidarity.

Ranjitsinh Disale explains that collaboration is crucial in the fight against poverty. As a result, he decided to share his $1 million prize with the nine other Global Teacher Prize finalists. By supporting other inspirational educators, the schoolteacher hopes that they can all help improve education systems in developing countries. In an interview, the schoolteacher declared that his highest hope was to give every student from underdeveloped countries a chance to access quality education.

To make his dream come true, local solidary and international cooperation remain crucial to his vision of an educated future.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Algeria
Algeria is the largest country in Africa and about 5.5% of its population lived in poverty as of 2011. Surprisingly, about 75% of those in poverty live in urban areas. They typically make a living from informal jobs such as selling services, foods and goods outside of government regulation. Additionally, many Sahrawi refugees live in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf province. Poverty and Sub-Saharan migration create vulnerability to human trafficking in Algeria.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 report, Algeria is in tier three for combating human trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Report places countries in one of four tiers depending on their progress in preventing human trafficking. This report measures a country’s efforts in creating laws and penalties against human trafficking. Furthermore, it analyzes measures a country takes to identify and protect victims of human trafficking. This overview of human trafficking in Algeria shows the problems the nation faces and the progress it has made to prevent it.

Progress in Algeria

Algeria has not made significant progress to eliminate human trafficking within its borders. It only dismantled 100 smuggling groups and identified and helped 34 victims in 2019. Furthermore, the Algerian government prosecuted fewer human traffickers in 2020. As a result, the government is protecting fewer victims of human trafficking.

Vulnerability to Human Trafficking

Refugees, asylum seekers and sex workers from sub-Saharan Africa are most vulnerable to human trafficking in Algeria. According to Human Rights Watch, Algeria deported thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers. However, the U.S. State Department said that these deportation efforts may deter reports of human trafficking for fear of experiencing deportation.

Prosecuting Traffickers

A demonstration of force must be present in order to charge people with child sex trafficking in Algeria. This law makes it difficult to prosecute many human traffickers. As a result, Algeria has prosecuted fewer traffickers in 2020 than in previous years. Additionally, human traffickers may face up to 20 years in prison or have to pay fines up to $8,420.

The General Directorate of National Security has maintained 10 police brigades for combatting human trafficking in Algeria. As a result, Algeria only prosecuted 13 traffickers in 2019. Unfortunately, the Algerian government did not report how many alleged trafficking cases it investigated in 2020.

Protecting Trafficking Victims

Up until 2019, Algeria lacked effective ways to identify and protect victims of human trafficking. Unidentified victims underwent deportation or punishment for their illegal actions rather than receiving assistance. Algeria provides free services to trafficking victims to increase identification. However, people often underutilize these free services. Moreover, the government does not report how many resources are provided for victims.

Hope for Algeria

Algeria is working with the United Nations on Drugs and Crime to train and educate magistrates to better prosecute human traffickers. These workshops train them in identifying and assisting victims of trafficking. For example, these workshops hold mock trials for Algerian magistrates to practice human trafficking and smuggling cases.

Furthermore, the Danish Refugee Council is a nonprofit that helps Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. Its training programs on self-reliance have assisted over 200,000 refugees. The organization provides refugees with skill and job training, legal services and shelter. Its services have successfully prevented many human trafficking incidences.

Support from these organizations and aid from the Algerian government has made substantial improvements aiding victims of human trafficking. Although Algeria has much to do, it will hopefully return to tier two on the Trafficking in Person Report in 2021.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Green Shoot Foundation's FASE ProgramThe Green Shoots Foundation aims to reduce international poverty in seven countries by implementing three programs: ELSE, FASE and MAME. This Foundation focuses particularly on the FASE program, or Food, Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship. The FASE program aims to educate individuals in business and agricultural work to promote productivity within the economy. About 80 students and 10 farmers from the Philippines and Cambodia have enrolled in the AgriTech Centre.

Reason for Action

The Philippines and Cambodia both heavily depend on the success of annual harvests to improve the economy. About 40% of Filipino citizens work in the agricultural industry. This industry contributes to around 20% of the GDP and 70% of total output in the Philippines. On the other hand, 22% of Cambodia’s agricultural work contributes to the GDP.

Although the agriculture industry is large, both countries face many difficulties. The Philippines lacks programs to ensure food security, connections to industries and efficient harvesting technologies. Furthermore, natural disasters such as typhoons and droughts damage agricultural facilities, supply markets and harm farmers themselves. Flooding also severely affects Cambodia. A massive flood cost around $355 million in damage to agriculture in Cambodia. Thus, the FASE program emerged to combat these harmful effects.

FASE in the Philippines

The Green Shoots Foundation collaborated with Gawad Kalinga to establish the FASE program in Southeast Asia. Gawad Kalinga is a nonprofit that aims to end international poverty in the Philippines. It works to provide education and employment opportunities to all citizens. Additionally, it has reached over 3,000 communities and fed over 100,000 students in schools through various programs. This organization has taken great steps in stabilizing the country’s workforce and economy.

The FASE program sends volunteers from the United States and England to the Philippines to provide training sessions. Volunteers teach people business and micro-financing information. Additionally, the FASE program provides platforms to inspire citizens to become entrepreneurs and support agricultural farmers.

Furthermore, incorporating a university on a farm allows farmers to obtain an education and promote their business. This program has supported over 1 million people and created over 300 jobs. Additionally, over 80,000 children attend school and 60 social enterprises have undergone establishment.

FASE in Cambodia

The Green Shoots Foundation has made a difference in Cambodia as well. The FASE program helped build the Agri-Tech Centre in North West Cambodia. Additionally, it focuses on environmental sustainability, training young children and preparing them for a future in the agricultural business.

Community-based Integrated Development is an NGO that works with the Green Shoots Foundation in Cambodia. Both organizations introduced the FASE program in Oddar Meanchey, a province in Cambodia. Furthermore, it provides training to improve agricultural opportunities and GDP. The Agri-Tech Centre has aided in establishing six sustainable enterprises as well.

In addition, the FASE program collaborates with the Agriculture Skills in Public Schools Project. The organizations discuss the most efficient farming styles to implement in the youth curriculum. Additionally, it creates irrigation systems and ponds to improve water accessibility and provide farmers with a suitable work environment. Children continue to learn farming skills to help improve the agricultural sector in Cambodia.

The Green Shoots Foundation and the Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship program help advance agricultural sectors in the Philippines and Cambodia. Through support from the international community, the Foundation works to train and inspire citizens to become entrepreneurs. The Green Shoots Foundation continues to work to reduce international poverty and expand its influence in more countries.

– Sylvia Boguniecki
Photo: With Permission from Green Shoots Foundation

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Ecuador
There are currently 17.7 million people calling Ecuador home — but a home with a poverty problem. The overall population living on less than $3.20 per day in Ecuador has been decreasing since 2010 but poverty remains an issue. The result is severe homelessness in Ecuador. It is a struggle many who live there have in common. The poverty rate of people who live on $5.50 a day has fluctuated between 24% and 23% since 2015 according to some figures. This has forced many to live on the streets with no place to call home. Natural disasters and unemployment are other risk factors one can point to — causing people to lose their homes.

Natural Disasters

The main natural disasters that play a role in the high rate of homelessness in Ecuador are floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Natural disasters impact almost 87,000 people in the country, every day. From 1980 to 2010, about 2.6 million people suffered from natural disasters. In 2008, more than 300,000 people required movement to temporary housing due to a flood. In 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed 700 people and crushed many buildings — a big portion of them being homes. The earthquake destroyed around 35,000 homes. At the time, it was the worst earthquake in almost three decades. Many people had to leave their destroyed homes, changing their whole lives in just a moment.

Unemployment Rates

An increasing unemployment rate exacerbates the issue of homelessness in Ecuador. The unemployment rate in the country was declining — dropping from 5.21% in 2016 to 3.69% in 2018. Since then, it has increased from 2018 with the current rate being at 6.48%. Taking that percentage out of the current population results in 1.1 million people unemployed. Likewise, these people are prone to having to leave their homes or unable to afford housing.

A big part of this issue is the fact that the economy is not growing at a comfortable or suitable rate. This is due to companies having to leave the country and Ecuador’s inability to manage its resources. These living conditions make it incredibly difficult to afford available housing and provide for children and other life needs.

Solutions

While these problems seem very difficult to improve, some are undertaking projects to bring available housing to Ecuadorians who do not have it. The shelter support volunteer project in Quito, Ecuador is a one to 12-week program where participants travel to Quito and help local shelters feed and support local Ecuadorians. The program places 10 to 20 volunteers per month to help out the communities, five hours per day. Tasks for the volunteers include: serving meals, doing laundry, cleaning, maintenance and other living essentials. Volunteers also help educate the youth and work to provide housing for the children and many other Ecuadorians experiencing homelessness.

The Manna Project International is another organization that focuses heavily on bettering the lives of Ecuadorians. The project has two teams — one that works in Ecuador and the other in Nicaragua. Roles on the team involve an Ecuador Site Coordinator, a community development fellow, program directors and volunteer community advisors. In response to some of the shortcomings such as homelessness in Ecuador, the team puts together professional job development workshops. This way, they educate the people there and develop small businesses to help people find jobs. The end goal is to provide Ecuadorians the ability to gain an income suitable enough to afford housing.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Pxhere