Children in IraqIraq is a nation tarnished by on-and-off wars for the last 30 years. International sanctions and conflict have led to millions suffering due to these wars, tanking the economy and leading to a high poverty rate within the country. People’s entire lives have been disrupted by conflict, hunger and unstable political situations. Unsurprisingly, all these issues have contributed to Iraq’s massive poverty problem. When faced with these obstacles, it is no wonder the Iraqi people are struggling to get by.

Another factor that has led to a high poverty rate in Iraq is the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is most evident in the rate of impoverished people who are children. According to the Ministry of Planning, nearly 10 million people live below the poverty line in Iraq, accounting for 25% of the population. Of those millions of people, almost 5 million of them are children. In addition, the Iraq wars have displaced more than 1 million people. This issue must be solved because it prevents children from enjoying being children. They have to grow up quickly. 

The Situation

With so many children needing care, the situation may seem hopeless. However, some foundations specialize in helping these children get back on their feet. They provide education, medical care and other needs to help the children recover and break the poverty cycle that has gripped Iraq for years. Al-Ayn is an organization specializing in giving children whatever they need to get back on track.

Al-Ayn is an organization that primarily focuses on sponsoring Iraqi children displaced by war and deals with poverty and many other issues. Founded in 2014, Al-Ayn has been at the forefront of trying to help children who need it most. It does this work in coordination with its sister organization based in Iraq. The primary way they help these children is through sponsorship agreements so people can support the children in lifting themselves out of poverty.

How the Sponsorship Works

As mentioned, Al-Ayn operates by sponsoring children and giving them whatever they need. Whether medical assistance or educational or financial needs, children can look forward to having their basic needs taken care of. First, a child must apply for sponsorship. Once approved, they will have three basic sponsorship packages available to them. They range from the standard option to medical to academic. These sponsorships ensure that no child has the resources to lift themselves out of poverty. Al-Ayn distributes a monthly donation to the child’s mother or a legal guardian if they are orphaned. Al-Ayn makes sure that their futures look much brighter.

What the Organization Has Done to Help

According to its website, Al-Ayn has had a significant impact in helping poverty-stricken children in Iraq. It feels it has “created a measurable, repeatable and systematic method to ensure that orphans are educated, fed, loved and safe.” As of January 2022, they have helped more than 70,000 orphans out of the more than 100,000 registered with their organization. Hopefully, this organization will continue to do great things in the future.

Al-Ayn is an organization that has done countless good for the orphaned and destitute in Iraq. This organization is making a massive difference for a country with too much hardship over the past three decades. Whether through education, basic needs or medical needs, this organization has the best interests of the poverty-stricken children of Iraq at heart. May they be continuously successful in their fight against poverty.

– Calder Miller
Photo: Pixabay

Orphans in LesothoThere are more than 13.8 million children globally between 0-17 years who have lost their parents to AIDS. Lesotho has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDs. This disease has rendered a lot of children orphans leaving more than 200,0000 orphans in Lesotho. As a result of this, orphans are unable to return to school but rather work or beg for survival. Educational support for orphans in Lesotho is important as this allows them to have better chances in life.

Disadvantages of Orphans in Lesotho

Many orphaned children take the roles of their parents in heading households and finding a source of food to survive rather than studying. Also, due to the absence of parental care, some orphans develop behavioral problems.

Orphans, when taken to live with other people often end up in poor living conditions such as poor hygiene, poor nutrition and lack of school materials. This ends up impacting negatively their education and calls for concern.

Although orphans may find it difficult to enroll themselves in school, basic education is necessary. Pre-primary education can yield high returns but despite this fact, little funding from the national budget goes toward education in some countries. In Lesotho, the educational budget was less than 1% some years back.

Educational Initiatives for Orphans in Lesotho

Free access to pre-primary education for every child is Sustainable Development Goal 4.2. In Lesotho, primary education was made free and compulsory in 2010 for all children 6 to 13 years of age. Also, a number of programs aimed at protecting the rights of orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho emerged. These programs have undergone implementation and are now producing positive outcomes. The programs target educational support, psychological assistance, home support and food security.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program through the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides funding for girls’ education to improve access to education from the early stage of education to completion. They further help to improve financial skills and connect them to employment opportunities. This program focuses on orphans, children or caregivers living with HIV and those at risk of contracting HIV. They also collaborate with other USAID-supported initiatives in the area of education, health and economic strength to enhance the resilience of young people.

The Better Early Learning and Development at Scale Initiative

An initiative, the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale initiative (BELDS) in Lesotho focused on improving the delivery of early childhood educational environment and services.

The Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF have partnered with the BELDS initiative to ensure proper planning, financing and implementation of the early childhood education program.

The Roger Foundation School Readiness Initiative started in June 2020 and should last until December 2025 aims to ensure that vulnerable children in Lesotho have access to pre-primary education and early childhood development. It is expected to reach at least 60,000 children in 800 schools. In addition, the Roger Federer Foundation developed a tablet for offline use. This tablet, called the early learning kiosk, helps teachers in early childhood education to access beginner topics.

Looking Ahead

HIV/AIDS has turned a lot of children into orphans and also made them attain adult roles. However, various organizations have made education more easily accessible to them, even when it may have become the last priority. These initiatives not only focus on education for orphans but also on supporting them psychologically and financially in their communities and homes.

Chidinma Nwoha
Photo: Pixabay

Orphans in India
India has the second largest population in the world, with 1.35 billion people. About 158.8 million of the population are children below the age of 6. Of these children, 30 million are orphans which makes up a significant portion of the youth population. Among the 30 million children, only 370,000 of them are in childcare institutions. The high number of orphans in India is due to multiple issues prevalent in the country. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) conducted one study in 2016-17 and found that there are 9,589 orphanages (CCI). Of these, 91% are non-governmental which means that only 9% of them receive support from it.

Causes of the High Number of Orphans

With 30 million orphans, there are numerous reasons that there is such a large number of orphans in India. One reason is the grueling process of adoption in India. First of all, many children in India are orphans as a result of parents not being able to pay for them, or the child escaping a dangerous situation. With more than half of the country living in poverty, many parents abandon their children instead of attempting to care for them, according to the International Learning Movement (ILM).

In order for a child to be eligible for adoption in India, the child needs to be in an adoptive home or orphanage. This puts the status of the child as “legally free for adoption.” This system is extremely problematic, however, with only 370,000 of the orphans living in orphanages or adoption centers, more than 29 million orphans are unavailable for adoption.

To make matters worse, those previously mentioned 91% of orphanages that the government does not directly run are not linked to adoption agencies, making them virtually invisible to the greater public, according to DW.

Adoption is a difficult and discouraging process for prospective parents as well. Prospective parents complain about, “a lack of support from services while applying for adoption,” DW stated in an article. Prospective parents experience frequent “delays and uncertainty of referrals” and they have to deal with a “lack of information and transparency from the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).”

On top of the horrible support the government provides while in the adoption process, parents can expect the process to take up to three years. All of these factors combine to play a large role in prospective parents as they are constantly jumping through hoops in order to successfully adopt.

The Danger of Being an Orphan in India

With millions of orphans in India, scavenging on the street, there are countless dangers that can affect them. Trafficking is the most dangerous one as unprotected children are big targets for exploitation. While the orphans who roam the street have protection from the law, there is no physical force protecting them from danger, leaving them helpless, according to DW.

According to the 2022 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report, 47% of the trafficked individuals the DoS identified in India were children, and 59% of those children were female. The girls are usually sold as child brides, with 27% of them married before their 18th birthday. As for the boys, they are often forced to fight for extremist groups, according to ILM.


With the brutal situation of orphans in India, many charities are working to make the situation better. Homes of Hope is one charity that has been doing extraordinary work in India and its help has positively impacted the country. Homes of Hope is responsible for building seven orphanages with five more on the way in India. It has lifted 3,000 girls from, sex trafficking, the streets, abusive homes and refugee camps. Homes of Hope has been a bright light leading the way through the dark situation of orphans in India.

Another great charity is India Hope. Like Homes of Hope, India Hope also focuses on improving the lives of orphans in India. India Hope currently houses 6,500 orphans in India with the goal of getting that number up to 8,000.

With millions of orphans in India, the situation is unfortunate and heartbreaking. However, with the continued work of good-hearted charities like Homes of Hope and India Hope, the situation could get better over time and hopefully, allow a good life for more and more orphans in India.

– David Keenan
Photo: Flickr

Orphanages in Afghanistan
Even though the number of orphaned/abandoned children in Pakistan is rising, in February 2022, just nine of 68 public orphanages in Afghanistan were operational in addition to 36 privately-run orphanages. Due to the economic crisis in Afghanistan, orphanages have faced funding challenges, rendering them unable to meet the basic needs of children. For this reason, orphanages had to resort to sending thousands of children to live with relatives. Even children with relatives may have nowhere to go because their relatives are incapable of providing for them. Financial difficulties across the board have led to fewer adoptions and a decrease in foster family applications. With funding and support, orphanages in Afghanistan can continue to care for the country’s most vulnerable children.

Hayat Orphanage

Hayat Orphanage, located in the middle of Laghman Province, came about in March 2013. Giving orphans shelter, food, clothing, medication and quality education services, Hayat Orphanage is devoted not only to protecting children from abuse but equipping them with adequate skills and knowledge to enable them to achieve self-sufficiency and independence.

The children from Hayat Orphanage attend local private schools to receive quality education and receive after-school tutoring in mathematics, English and computer technology. The students also participate in extra-curricular activities.

Moreover, Hayat Orphanage is involved with various community projects. This includes meeting local leaders to “raise awareness for female education,” addressing obstacles that are preventing girls’ education, recruiting volunteers from the U.K. to teach children English, preventing child marriage, fighting discrimination against several minorities, supporting female health care and combating domestic violence, among other causes.

Hayat Orphanage’s Sabar Afghan Online School provides free classes on YouTube for boys and girls from grades 1-12. For girls who cannot attend school due to the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education, the Sabar Afghan Online School is a lifeline. According to its website, the school “employ[s] women teachers to show [its] support for gender equality and to facilitate a more equitable Afghani society in the long term.”

As of now, Hayat Orphanage assists more than 100 orphans, but its mission is to support 2,000 orphans across Afghanistan.

Afghan Child Education and Care Organization

Fully registered since 2008, Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO) is a nonprofit organization based in Kabul. Andeisha Farid, the founding director, gained inspiration to help Afghan children after facing the consequences of war and displacement as a child. She created a place of refugee for children in Pakistan in 2004. With AFCECO, Andeisha endeavors to provide a nurturing environment for children.

CharityHelp International, a U.S. organization that “funds programs through a child sponsorship program,” works with AFCECO. This partnership “allows individuals from around the world to form bonds with the child of their choice and participate in sustaining the orphanage by paying some or all of the cost of providing that child with her or his needs.”

AFCECO runs 11 orphanages, nine in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan for refugees, which overall tend to about 700 children. The orphanages consist of rented houses. Anywhere from 30 to 80 children live in each one, depending on the size of the house. Along with regular meals, the children are given a range of responsibilities, including household chores.

In addition, AFCECO carries out a variety of services for the children including a Leadership Academy for older girls, a New Learning Center and health clinics. AFCECO also sends ill children to the U.S. for specific treatment and brings children to Europe and the U.S. for temporary scholarship programs.

The Impact of the Taliban Takeover

In 2021, AFCECO faced setbacks when the Taliban seized control of Kabul and attempted to dismantle the organization. The Mehan home, a refuge for many AFCECO children, had to shut down. AFCECO continued operating but in a not-so-visible manner. It set up six safe houses in Afghanistan with up to 10 children and “house parents from the same region” so each safe house “appears to be an ordinary home for an extended family” and does not raise suspicion from neighbors or the Taliban.

As of now, approximately 80 children live in the safe houses. When the Taliban shut down schools, these homes led education classes in secret, often taught by house parents and female teachers whom the Taliban prohibited from working. Currently, children in grades 1 to 9 attend hidden private schools, including girls older than 12 who cannot attend school due to the Taliban’s ban.

Kankor prep classes are available to older children to prepare them for university entrance exams and a scholarship program is available to AFCECO graduates to help with higher education tuition and living expenses. AFCECO, with its multiple orphanages in Afghanistan, seeks not only to assist each child in living a prosperous life but to motivate them to positively impact their country.

Looking Ahead

Afghanistan has about 2 million orphans, with thousands more living on the streets, unable to meet their basic needs. By protecting children and giving them the tools to become self-reliant, these orphanages in Afghanistan provide hope to children in a country ravaged by war and poverty. With continued funding and support, the Hayat Orphanage and AFCECO can continue their critical work.

– Megan Roush
Photo: Flickr

Orphanages in Mexico
According to the International Community Foundation (ICF), Mexico is home to more than 700 orphanages. Around 30,000 of the 400,000 parentless children in Mexico inhabit these orphanages. About 100,000 of Mexico’s orphans are homeless, leaving many kids wandering the streets of Mexico. The lack of housing solutions for orphaned children and the abounding problems that orphanages in Mexico face have led to a crisis that requires urgent intervention.

Negative Coverage of Orphanages

The ICF says, “due to the lack of oversight and accountability for orphanages in Mexico,” there have been reports of poor care and abuse within some orphanages. Orphanages also suffer from a lack of funding, which renders these facilities unable to meet the basic needs of the children within their care. Additionally, because Mexico lacks an official national census of orphaned children, it is difficult to track the whereabouts of these children and monitor their living circumstances.

Unfortunately, due to the negative coverage surrounding orphanages across Mexico, gathering support and funding is even more difficult. However, the ICF says, “As a result of increased awareness domestically and abroad, the Mexican government is under pressure to step up their regulation of orphanages and orphanages have been encouraged to improve their operations.”

The Good News

Despite the negative coverage, there are several legitimate orphanages in Mexico that are committed to providing the best care for orphans so that they may lead prosperous lives as productive members of society. These orphanages require support in order to provide the best possible care to the children under their supervision. In order to identify legitimate orphanages in need of support, the ICF subjects orphanages to a screening and approval process to ensure that there will be no misuse of monetary support.

Casa Hogar de Cabo San Lucas is an example of a legitimate life-changing orphanage operating in Mexico. Casa Hogar houses children from 4 to 18 years old and strives to “educate and elevate.” Its ‘education’ goals include increasing the “academics, life skills, moral values, spiritual values and social values” of the children. While its ‘elevate’ goal is to help children live up to their highest potential and exceed societal expectations and norms.

Corazon de Vida (CDV)

The Corazon de Vida (CDV) is a U.S. nonprofit organization that hopes to work on a large scale to transform the lives of orphans in Baja, Mexico. By providing monthly funding and support to orphanages, the CDV looks to provide shelter, education, quality food and a sense of security to children plagued by homelessness. Currently, CDV works in more than 10 orphanages home to more than 500 youth.

The CDV also runs a program to provide older youth with access to university education. Its website explains the program’s accomplishments: “Our university program currently has 54 plus past orphanage residents in college or technical school and serving as role models to their younger siblings.” The work of the CDV goes beyond impacting one generation of kids to impacting the lives of many by creating positive role models and accomplishable goals for the youth to work toward.

The Importance of Supporting Orphanages

As the ICF says in its article on breaking the cycle of poverty in Mexico, improving education and providing homes for abandoned children is essential in decreasing poverty. By supporting orphanages, children have ample opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge to become self-sufficient, which can prevent a life of poverty in the future.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Flickr

Zoe Empowers
Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said that “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” However, the circumstances of the world’s children bring to the forefront a harsh reality. UNICEF estimates that there are 356 million children enduring conditions of extreme poverty globally. With 356 million children surviving on less than $1.90 daily, children go without access to education, proper health care, housing, sanitation and nutritious meals. These circumstances are often worse for orphans who have no familial support. Regions with a high number of orphans, such as Afghanistan, commonly report rampant wars, natural disasters and epidemics. Without the care of an adult and a way to secure their basic needs, many of these children face exploitation, often becoming victims of trafficking and forced labor. Zoe Empowers is an organization that assists orphans and vulnerable children by providing resources and skills training for these children to become self-sufficient and escape the stronghold of poverty.

About Zoe Empowers

In 2004, Zoe Empowers first began as a “relief mission” in Africa working to help orphans during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. In fact, the organization’s origins stand as the initial inspiration for its name — Zimbabwe Orphan Endeavor. As time went by, the organization chose to adopt the Greek meaning of the word “zoe” — life. This definition is meaningful because of the organization’s mission to empower vulnerable children in “eight areas of life.” The organization’s overall goal is to create a world where orphans and vulnerable children are able to become self-sufficient, productive members of society, able to use their own skills and knowledge to escape the grips of poverty.

The Strategy

Zoe Empowers implements a three-year empowerment program. This costs a monthly amount of $7.66 per child and a total of $275.76 per child over three years. The program includes several core areas:

  1. Food Stability. To create sustainable solutions to hunger, Zoe Empowers gives the children a modest grant and training to start “a husbandry and farming project” in the first year of the program. In the second year, these animals and crops serve as funding to buy more land to expand on these income-generating agricultural projects. In the final year, the program reaches the ultimate impact: The children now have access to two or three healthy meals a day and share this food “with other vulnerable children in the community.”
  2. Stable Shelter. Within the first year of the program, children with the most urgent housing needs receive financing “through housing grants.” In the second year, “individual and group savings account funds” go toward the reparation or rebuilding of the “homes of deceased parents.” In the last year, the children can purchase land and build their own houses with the extra income from their businesses.
  3. Hygiene and Health. In the first year, staff provided training on personal hygiene and children with severe health issues received emergency medical assistance. In the second year, children gain access to “national health insurance.” Alternatively, Zoe Empowers helps children to finance “medical savings accounts.” In the last year, children earn enough from their business ventures to provide for themselves in terms of food, clothing, “access to health care” and other necessities.
  4. Establishing Education. In terms of learning, in the first year, Zoe Empowers provides children with financial assistance to enroll in school. In the second year, “individual and household businesses” finance the costs of school. During the last year, students can also fund the education of their “younger siblings” and plan for their own tertiary education.
  5. Sustainable Income. In order to generate income, in the first year, the children receive training on economic concepts and how to establish a business with small grants. In the second year, the children receive business loans, which are “paid back to the group bank account” while businesses grow. During the last year, these children lead their families, running several businesses and employing siblings and community members.
  6. Human Rights. In the first year, the organization contacts local officials to conduct training on child rights and build relationships with children so that they are more comfortable reporting abuse. During the second year, as business owners, the children are able to secure a higher social status. Therefore, the community welcomes their voices and opinions. In the last year, with a human rights background, children now know how to enforce their rights in the case of violations.
  7. Community Connections. All three years of this aspect of the program revolve around establishing a sense of belonging in the community as children serve as leaders and entrepreneurs in society.

Impact in Numbers

So far, Zoe Empowers works in seven countries: Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Rwanda, Liberia, Tanzania and India. Across these countries, the organization has provided assistance to 124,071 vulnerable children since 2007. In a 2020 survey, SAS collected data from 495 graduates of Zoe Empowers empowerment groups in Rwanda and Kenya. Among other results, SAS reports that 100% of graduates own successful, income-generating businesses, 96% can afford the costs of three daily meals and 91% of graduates can fund the cost of their education.

Zoe Empowers hopes to expand further into other regions. With its sustainable model, poverty can reduce as children receive the resources, training and support to become self-sufficient.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Pixabay

Iraqi Orphans
Iraq’s youth stand as one of the most vulnerable yet valuable populations in Iraq’s war-torn nation. The humanitarian crisis in the conflict-ridden country of Iraq has led to a poverty rate of 24.8% as of March 2021. One of the most tragic consequences of the conflict and violence in Iraq is the fact that, in 2012, there were almost “2.5 million Iraqi orphans.” Although these statistics stem from the time of the brutal Saddam Hussein regime, the situation regarding orphans in Iraq remains dire. Currently, Iraqi Children’s Hope indicates that there are 700,000 Iraqi orphans.

Iraqi Orphans

To put the situation in perspective, one must note that in 2020, Iraq’s age 0-14 population stood at 37.02% of the total population in contrast to 7.53% of the population in the age category of 55 and older. Just as a comparison, 18.37% of the U.S. population is in the 0-14 age range, and, in 2014, more than 34% of U.S. citizens were 50 and older. Because Iraq’s youth make up a significant portion of the population, Iraqi children stand as essential human capital amid a dwindling older generation. Yet, millions of Iraqi orphans often have no support system and no shelter, making them susceptible to the lure of trafficking and a life of crime. This fact coupled with the statistic that almost “3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children [are] out of school” means that support to Iraqi children must become a priority.

However, with Iraqi orphans in mind, three nonprofits are working to alleviate the impacts of the last 40 years of conflict.

Iraqi Children’s Hope

Iraqi Children’s Hope works directly with Iraqi orphans, “enabling them to thrive educationally and economically” to ensure a better quality of life and lessen the impacts of poverty and war. The organization “prioritize[s] orphans who cannot afford to attend private schools or pay tutoring fees” through the Children Tutoring for Success program. The program supports “orphan students in grades 1-8 through homework assistance and various other academic needs.” Iraqi Children’s Hope also focuses on food drives for widowed mothers and orphaned children. For example, during Ramadan 2021, an Islamic tradition in which families fast from sunrise to sunset, the Iraq branch distributed more than 700 food packages to orphan families and other families in need.

The Iraqi Orphan Foundation

The United Kingdom-based Iraqi Orphan Foundation emphasizes supporting vulnerable groups through forms of humanitarian aid and advancing the education of Iraqi orphaned youth. The foundation reaches children across several towns and cities in Iraq. Through its Sponsor an Orphan program that prompts individuals to donate a minimum of £20 per month per child, the Iraqi Orphan Foundation has supported more than 6,000 orphans. In 2019, the organization raised more than £560,000 in donations to support Iraqi orphans. The organization also focuses on direct food distribution for children without sponsors. For Ramadan 2021, the organization distributed “more than 400 food parcels to the families of orphans.”

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF)

Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) commits to supporting at-risk Iraqi children “who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists.” Its scope includes orphans. One of its unique programs is the Hope Bus where volunteers transform an old bus into a lively, child-friendly classroom. Each bus provides about 50 orphans and street children “with tutoring, nutrition, [health support], social services and childhood fun.” Each child participates in the Hope Bus program for a year in preparation for a traditional school. More than 500 children have attended the Hope Bus so far. The program has provided more than 36,700 healthy meals to students and all 2020 graduates “now have their legal documents.”

ICF Street Lawyers

The ICF Street Lawyers program provides “legal protection for children” to safeguard them from traffickers, criminals and other forms of exploitation. Street Lawyers also “help children obtain legal documents required to enroll in school and access government benefits.”

Children make up 25% of all human trafficking victims. Orphans, often without protection or security, are the most vulnerable to trafficking. About 168 million children around the world end up as child laborers with 50% coerced into hazardous work that damages physical and mental well-being. Human trafficking is difficult to track as less than 0.5% of cases are reported. From May 2016 to April 2021, ICF provided “legal protection and defense” to 1,469 children.

An example of ICF’s extensive impact is the story of Ahmed. Ahmed and his widowed mother earn an income by selling milk from their cow. One day, instead of selling the milk, he shared the milk with the Hope Bus children. This type of generosity despite poverty is a testament to the impact of ICF’s work.

The impacts of Iraq’s political turmoil affect Iraqi children most severely, especially Iraqi orphans. However, there is hope as nonprofits commit to addressing the void in government efforts by supporting the nation’s children, ensuring a brighter future for the youngest generation.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ orphanages in IndiaIndia’s people have long struggled with poverty as a developing country, despite being one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Coupling overpopulation with a lack of resources, poverty is a common sight on India’s streets. Circumstances of poverty particularly exacerbate the conditions of girls’ orphanages in India.

Poverty in India

According to a 2016 report from the World Bank, one in five Indians suffers from poverty, totaling 270 million people. These Indians have less access to water and sanitation, job opportunities and education in comparison to their wealthier counterparts. A ramification of this level of poverty is that there exists an entire untapped population of Indians who could be contributing to the economy and the country in several ways, but instead, are forced to live on the streets with their basic needs unmet.

In the last few years, India has made some progress in addressing one of its greatest issues. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that, from 2006 to 2016, India’s poverty rate almost halved from 55% to just 28%. Since then, India has been working toward lifting more people out of poverty and adding jobs to its economy.

However, COVID-19 has set the country back in its poverty alleviation efforts. As one of the countries particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the Delta variant, India has taken a step backward as more people descend into poverty.

Girls’ Orphanages in India

Because of gender-based cultural bias and economic pressures, the majority of orphans in India are girls. According to UNICEF, India is home to 31 million orphaned children. The Times of India reports that nine out of 10 abandoned children are girls. In some parts of India, parents view girls as burdens because, for one, their dowries for marriage are costly.

For this reason, some girls face abandonment and are put into orphanages, adding to the already high number of existing orphaned girls. Shockingly, “nurses have been known to accept bribes to exchange baby girls for baby boys.” Furthermore, activists draw attention “to eight million missing girls” — the estimated “number of female fetuses” possibly “aborted over the past decade due to their sex.” Due to the extensive number of orphaned girls, orphanages often do not have enough resources to adequately take care of the girls.

Association for India’s Development

One organization is doing the important work of helping India’s most impoverished. The Association for India’s Development (AID) has programs throughout different sectors in India, with a network of volunteers helping to uplift and empower Indians.

One of AID’s programs, in particular, surrounds helping girls’ orphanages in India. The Borgen Project spoke to AID’s Project Manager Sid Muralidhar to talk about his experience and how individuals, and the nation at large, can better address poverty in India. “A few of the biggest factors that contribute to India’s high poverty rate are social inequality and lack of access to quality education,” Muralidhar says. “There are very rigid class divides and remnants of the caste system still exist,” which limits social mobility. Without intervention or aid, an individual that is born in poverty is typically likely to remain in poverty.

As project manager, Muralidhar worked with an all-girls orphanage in the village of Badlapur to provide the girls with resources and raise money for the organization. He says the orphanage has suffered negatively from demonetization and the girls live in poor conditions because of the lack of resources.

Taking Action and Hope for the Future

When asked about what steps to take to address poverty and help girls’ orphanages in India, Muralidhar provides a comprehensive answer. “Poverty in India is a pernicious problem that requires broad-based and creative solutions.” Further, in spite of India’s status as “one of the fastest-growing global economies” before COVID-19, “the economic gains” are not “shared equally,” he says.

Muralidhar explains that the Indian “government can attempt to alleviate this widening gap by boosting social welfare programs as well as investing in public education.” He suggests that, in the meanwhile, “people interested in the issue and those who want to be conduits of progress should continue to educate themselves and others to grow the grassroots effort.”

Despite barriers to progress, Muralidhar adds that there is still hope. He said one of the most striking observations he made was the girls’ “extreme resiliency” and “eternal optimism” despite their situations. While COVID-19 has no doubt exacerbated the country’s poverty and negatively affected girls’ orphanages in India, AID exemplifies that there is still potential to continue previous progress made.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Flickr

education system in MoroccoThe education system in Morocco has struggled for decades. In part, this is due to historical turmoil involving education accessibility. However, Morocco has recently taken a new approach to reverse this damage and improve its education system.

The “Decade of Education”

In 1999, Mohammed VI became the king of Morocco. He deemed education one of the main sectors in need of immediate action. Therefore, the years 1999 to 2009 were named the “decade of education.” During this time, reforms would take place under new guidelines, with the main goals to decrease illiteracy and upgrade the quality of learning. In addition, King Mohammed VI pledged to enhance private education and fight gender-based inequality.

The monarch’s involvement also resulted in a restructuring of the curriculum. To do this, King Mohammed VI replaced five years of primary and seven years of secondary education with nine years of the former and three years of the latter. He also introduced books that contained pedagogical principles.

These lessons targeted students’ needs and increased critical thinking skills. Through this reformed method of education, children learned how to develop a democratic mindset and thus the importance of human rights through science, technological and educational advances.

The Education Revolution

This new curriculum involved information technology studies and the integration of new subjects. Courses such as “Introduction to Education for Citizenship” in primary school, adding French and Amazigh language classes to the curriculum were all improvements to the former education system in Morocco. Exam schedules to ensure fairness and quality were revised and additional training in technology was provided to teachers. Overall, the changes during the Decade of Education shifted the way Morocco’s schools were administered. However, work to ensure the brightest future for Morocco’s children was still needed.

New Education Strategy Vision 2030

In 2014, the Minister of Education proposed additional revisions for the education system in Morrocco. In this vision, titled “New School for the citizen of tomorrow” the new education system allowed schools to appropriately provide all students with a high-quality education. The program allowed for increased Arabic classes, foreign language courses and learning vocational training.

Moreover, the project focused on encouraging openness and skill-building. With these overall advances, achieving greater  levels of education and the encouragment entrepreneurship allowed Morocco’s youth to learn important life skills. The ministry will also open centers for languages, culture and sports. The Ministry declared that during 2011-2012 and 2014-2015, there was an increase of more than 325,000 students enrolled in public and private schools.

In 2019,  The World Bank announced that it would contribute $500 million to the 2030 project. The grant will allow Morocco to extend access to quality education, especially pre-primary schools. It will also significantly increase teachers’ skills and competencies as improving human capital for children.

Hmemsa Organization: Education Program

Another group aiming to improve the education system in Morocco is Hmemsa. This organization is a successful Moroccan non-profit in the United States. Its main goal is to help low-income Moroccan households with essential needs and social issues. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Wafa Bennani was able to share more of the organization’s aspirations and achievements.

Bennani shared that currently, the Hmemsa organization is sponsoring two education programs. The first program involves exchanging engineering expertise with American students. Thus, Hmemsa is cooperating with the American Society of Engineering Education and other universities in Morocco to engage in an ASEE universal seminar in Morocco.

The second program is dedicated to orphans and impoverished children. Hmemsa’s Orphan Education Program is teaming up with the “Kafala Tifl Association” in Morocco to support and assist vulnerable children ages 5 to 18. The program has helped alleviate the financial burden of education from impoverished families and orphanages by providing children with necessary school supplies. Overall, the Orphans’ sponsorship program consists of $500 a year toward a child’s education.

Hmemsa’s Success Stories

Bennani also explained that the organization has been working with two orphanages in Meknes and Fez for more than 6 years now. They are planning to extend the program to include different orphanages in other cities as well. Success from Hmemsa’s work has been plentiful so far. Bennani expressed that two orphans have recently graduated high school with excellent overall grades. Additionally, Hmemsa sponsored one of the students to visit the U.S. and learn English at Western University. After this experience, the student went back to Morocco and secured a high-paying job.

Bennani also explained that when it comes to the challenges, mental health in orphanages is an issue Hmemsa sees frequently. With a shortage of special needs education, Hmemsa is looking for ways to provide counseling therapists and added support. With previous success in advocating for action against PKU, they are optimistic about their efforts in mental health advocacy.

Education and Poverty’s Future

In recent years, Morroco has made enormous efforts to boost its education system and make it accessible for all children. From the “decade of education” strategy to the 2030 vision, Morocco has always been striving for a better way to educate its children. With the help of The World Bank and non-profit organizations like the Hmemesa organization, the education system in Morocco is significantly enhancing education for all Moroccans.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

orphans learn life skillsNestled at the base of the Santa Bárbara Mountain in Honduras lies Santa Bárbara, a city known for producing sugarcane, coffee beans and livestock. The city is also home to El Jardin De Amor y Esperanza, also known as the Garden of Love and Hope. An orphanage that opened in 2011, the Garden of Love and Hope takes in children that have outlived their parents or whose parents cannot provide for them. This orphanage, though small, has an incredible impact on children through its ability to rescue them from destitute situations. Orphans learn life skills that will prepare them to be successful in life outside of the orphanage. One way the orphanage accomplishes this is through the use of its Selva Café, which helps the orphans learn real-world skills.

The Garden of Love and Hope

The Borgen Project spoke with Lukas Dale, a volunteer that traveled to the Garden of Love and Hope with a group organized through Olivet Nazarene University. Dale describes a home visit he did on his final volunteering day, giving him the opportunity to “experience the kind of conditions the local people live in.” The home “was a tiny 7x7x7-foot clay and mud box that had no plumbing and only one bed. It housed a family of grandparents, a mom, five kids and a dog.” Dale says the experience gave him “a new and more accurate understanding of the situation people in impoverished countries must live in.”

Though much of Honduras struggles with poverty, the Garden of Love and Hope works to give orphans the best resources and education possible. Its primary mission is to provide the children with food, shelter, clothing and medicine while helping them with school. Footsteps Missions significantly supports the orphanage. A nonprofit organization, Footsteps Missions works to send volunteers to Santa Bárbara to assist the orphanage.

Dale shared more of what he witnessed at the orphanage, explaining that the children were treated well by staff who are “happy to volunteer their time to care for the kids.” Furthermore, he explains that “There were many children and teenagers who didn’t have any tangible hope for their futures. A lot of the teenage girls had been raped and either had children to take care of or were just working through their trauma, for example.”

He describes the orphanage as “a very loving, accepting environment that focuses on giving the children hope for the future by equipping them with practical skills.” By providing children with safety from their former circumstances, the orphanage also supports the children’s futures.

Selva Cafe

One of the most pertinent ways that the Garden of Love and Hope helps children learn life skills is through Selva Café. Owned by the orphanage and Footsteps Missions, the small coffee shop’s funds support the costs of caring for the children at the orphanage. The café also employs children from the orphanage. By running the cash register, preparing food and coffee and serving customers, children gain work experience.

Dale reflected on his experience when he visited the orphanage. He said, “Footsteps Missions was also in the process of opening a café near the orphanage that would help fund the orphanage and give the children a place to gain work experience. Since the café was in the process of opening, we helped with some physical labor projects they had around the property, taught the owners how to use financial programs on the computer and set up a cash register for them to use.” The Garden of Love and Hope works to help orphans learn some of the life skills needed to succeed in the world outside the orphanage. It does this while serving the community through the production of coffee and baked goods that can be purchased at the café.

Importance of Helping Orphans Learn Life Skills

The concept of “life skills” means a young person possesses the qualities needed to succeed, such as confidence and personal and social skills to interact with others. The Garden of Love and Hope realized children needed to have both formal and life education, the latter of which only comes with experience. Traditionally, the family unit teaches life skills. However, since orphaned children do not always have a family to rely on, it is more difficult for them to acquire the necessary experience to succeed. By establishing Selva Café, the Garden of Love and Hope fosters a place to learn skills. Teaching children life skills will also give them the desire to serve their community, including those also in poverty.

Though it is small and relatively new, the Garden of Love and Hope and its partnership with Selva Café give the Honduran children of Santa Bárbara hope for their futures. By equipping children with valuable life skills learned through serving tourists and their community in the café, these children have the potential to rise above their life circumstances and grow into capable adults.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Pixabay