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Charities Operating in Botswana
Botswana, located in the center of Southern Africa, has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This is mainly due to the country’s careful economic management, diamond wealth and its multi-party democratic government. As of 2021, Botswana has a population of approximately 2.4 million. The country is currently an upper-middle-income country with the potential to become a high-income country by 2036. However, Botswana is facing some challenges. Botswana’s reliance on diamonds makes the country vulnerable to external shocks, which the COVID-19 pandemic made clear when the economy decreased by 8.7% in 2020, according to the World Bank. Furthermore, while Botswana prioritizes education and provides nearly free primary education universally, in 2021, the unemployment rate in Botswana was at 26%.

The World Bank estimates that children in Botswana spend 8.1 years in school, from age 4 to 18, but the number decreases to 5.1 years when factoring in how much time children spend actually learning. This certainly contributes to adults being unable to attain jobs that require certain skills or levels of education. Although progress needs to occur, there are numerous charities in Botswana administering aid. Here are five charities operating in Botswana.

1. Camphill Community Trust

Camphill Community Trust was once a small school, but it currently has more than 100 centers in 18 countries. It supports individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities from early childhood to adulthood. It provides education, a sense of community, and work experience. Camphill Community Trust offers Rankodimo Kindergarten, which is pre-primary learning for 20 children ages 3-5, as well as Rankoromane School for 60 children ages 5-14. Finally, there is Motse Wa Badiri Training which offers quality education, training and jobs for those with disabilities.

It offers a four-year learning program for those who are 14 years or older called The Integrated Learning for Living and Work Programme (ILLWP). It is available to give students an expansive basis of knowledge and skills. There are 96 students enrolled currently. Overall, Camphill Community Trust is one of the charities in Botswana offering beneficial learning and work experience to children and young adults, helping their chance to become successful adults.

2. SOS Children’s Villages

Botswana is one of the top four countries that HIV and AIDS impact the most. HIV and AIDS have caused suffering for those afflicted and their families and it has negatively impacted Botswana’s economy as it commonly affects working adults. This hurts households financially and decreases the workforce in Botswana. There are around 160,000 children lacking parental care and among them, 120,000 lost that care because of AIDS. When the children’s parents are ill, they have to focus on working to provide for themselves instead of receiving an education. With this in mind, SOS Children’s Villages have been busy making sure that families have basics such as health care, education and counseling available to them.

The organization has been giving support and needed services to more than 130 territories and has helped 4 million children by strengthening family ties and other forms of care. SOS Children’s Villages also provides homes to families in Francistown, Serowe and Tlokweng. These homes are for families completely unable to care for their children. Since each family’s situation is different, the SOS Children’s Villages assistance adapts to each family. SOS Children’s Villages is one of the noteworthy charities in Botswana that is striving to give children a positive environment and a secure future.

3. Ray of Hope Botswana

Ray of Hope Botswana aspires to give children an education that is both comprehensive and consistent since 2015. Located in Gamodubu village, it is a youth-led organization that mentors more than 100 children who are typically 7 years old or younger. Gamodubu village has a primary and secondary school, but for children under the age of 6, the academic foundation is inadequate. Ray of Hope Botswana’s focus is on children who lack access to stable and good quality education. It provides tutoring in Math, English and Life Skills. It is one of the charities in Botswana determined to motivate children to rise above the poverty line.

4. Caritas Botswana

Founded in 1984, Caritas Botswana’s aspiration is to assist people out of poverty. The agency’s efforts promote the poor’s quality of life as it targets education, more adequate use of resources, improved access to health services and community involvement. As previously mentioned, HIV is a serious issue in Botswana. Caritas Botswana’s contributions, which consist of raising awareness and educating people about HIV and AIDS and offering transportation to those needing treatment, are essential in fighting this disease.

Additionally, Caritas Botswana runs more than 20 preschool centers, which train preschool teachers and give education, nutrition and welfare to more than 700 children. Along with this, Caritas Botswana helps communities cultivate long-term solutions for socio-economic development by contributing micro-financing and agricultural supplies such as seeds and farming tools. The agency also helps households increase their income by establishing credit programs and savings.

5. Lady Khama Charitable Trust

The founder of Lady Khama Charitable Trust, which is one of the many productive charities operating in Botswana, is Ian Khama, the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana. Founded in 2002, it raises funds for charities in Botswana that aim to help vulnerable children, women and people living with disabilities. Lady Khama Charitable Trust’s main asset is finding local organizations which are needing support and then providing them with that support. It has more than 18 “community upliftment projects,” nine of which are its core beneficiaries. This includes Camphill Community Trust, Bana Ba Metsi, Childline Botswana, Flying Mission Services, Little Friends Center, SOS Children’s Villages, Ray of Hope Foundation, Cancer Association of Botswana and Sponsor a Child Trust.

Despite the hardships Botswana faces, the country is improving. These five charities operating in Botswana are working to provide much-needed aid to Botswana. With focuses on education, serious illness, inequality, job production, health and security for children, each one is helping Botswana progress with its individual programs and techniques.

– Megan Roush
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Equatorial GuineaEquatorial Guinea is the third richest country in Africa with a per capita income of $8,462.30. Despite this figure, poverty in Equatorial Guinea is among the highest in the world. More than 70% of Equatorial Guinea’s population lives in poverty. With a majority of the population being less than 18 years old, child poverty in Equatorial Guinea is also among the highest in the world.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Equatorial Guinea

  1. Prevalence of diseases and immunization – In Equatorial Guinea, relatively high income levels do not translate into lower levels of poverty. According to World Bank data from 2021, only 53% of children aged 12-23 months received vaccines against DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus). Similarly, data from 2015 shows that only one in four newborns received a vaccine against polio and measles, while only one in three received a vaccine against tuberculosis. These numbers are among the lowest levels of child immunization in the world.
  2. Poverty and education – According to data from 2012, nearly 40% of Equatorial Guinea’s children aged 6 to 12 years did not attend school. Of note, in 2015, the gross enrollment rate of children in primary school was only 63% which is the second lowest in the world, ahead of Somalia. This is a worrying statistic as poverty levels have a direct effect on education levels which also affects the growth and development of children.
  3. Focus on economic growth and corruption – Extreme child poverty in Equatorial Guinea and its simultaneously high-income levels can be explained by the country’s sole focus on economic growth. For every $100 that the government spends, 80% of it is spent on infrastructure and only 2-3% is spent on health care and education. This is one of the reasons why Equatorial Guinea’s health care and educational parameters are often among the lowest in the world. The Human Rights Watch report also attributed this to some of the senior government officials accumulating a vast amount of wealth during the period of the oil boom.
  4. Social welfare measures – While the above figures paint a grim picture of the current state in Equatorial Guinea, there is still hope for the future. The government’s current social security system in the country reaches only a small portion of the population, with a limited number of social programs to assist the poor with health care and education. This means that if social welfare measures such as social insurance and health waivers fill this gap, there is a potential to drastically improve some of Equatorial Guinea’s social metrics. By ensuring a plan to redistribute its income, there is potential for rapidly improving not only child poverty but also the poverty levels of the entire population in the country.
  5. Support from nonprofits – The SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit established in 1949 that has its presence in multiple countries across the world, including in Equatorial Guinea. The organization actively supports children at risk of losing the care of their families and provides them with education and medical assistance. By addressing some of the key issues and with the help of organizations such as the SOS Children’s Village, there is no reason that Equatorial Guinea cannot be on a rapid road to progress.

Room for Improvement

Equatorial Guinea’s high-income levels also tell us that there is a potential to not only address its poverty issues but also other important problems such as education and health care. High levels of income inequality and limited penetration of social welfare have limited the progress of the country. However, as the report by the Overseas Development Institute suggests, by addressing these issues quickly, Equatorial Guinea could soon be on a rapid road to progress.

While this is what the government could do to improve the socioeconomic situation of its citizens, the work of nonprofits organizations such as the SOS Children’s Villages will go a long way to helping children in Equatorial Guinea.

– Ritvik Madhukar Annapragada
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a country located in West Africa. Its name translates to “the land of the incorruptible people.”It has a population of 21.5 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 40% of its people living below the poverty line. Despite the vast amount of humanitarian work conducted throughout the country addressing changing weather patterns and sustainability, Burkina Faso is still vulnerable to frequent natural disasters, including droughts, floods and diseases. Charities including Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, CECI, Humanity & Inclusion and Caritas work tirelessly to help alleviate poverty throughout Burkina Faso through education, provision of clean water and sanitation along with human development and the survival of children. Here is some information about the above five charities operating in Burkina Faso.

Poverty Situation in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, as mentioned before, remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40% of people living below the poverty line. According to the Human Development Index report that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) carried out in 2021-2022, Burkina Faso ranks 184th out of 191 countries. In the last few years, poverty in Burkina Faso has correlated with consistent political instability and violence the country continues to face with many people being displaced. With heavy reliance on agriculture as its primary source of economic development, Burkina Faso has suffered due to low agricultural output by 4.1%. With violence and political unrest, more than 900,000 people are internally displaced and remain in extreme poverty. This mostly affects children, with more than half of the 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso seeking humanitarian assistance being children. 

Save the Children

One of the five charities operating in Burkina Faso is Save the Children, which began working in Burkina Faso in 1982. With children at the forefront of the organization’s focus, Save the Children works tirelessly to ensure security in their lives. Save the Children has become one of the biggest charitable organizations in Burkina Faso through its programs dedicated to education, safety and child health. Some of the work the organization has carried out revolves around multiple aspects of quality of life. It includes greater access to universal health care, resources and tools for treating malnutrition in children, food programs to combat insecurity and malnutrition and financial discipline teachings to help families support themselves and maintain quality health care. 

SOS Children’s Villages

The organization came to Burkina Faso during the 1990s and established itself in 1997 north of the nation’s capital; since 2004, SOS Children’s Villages has taken the initiative of operating SOS Family Strengthening Programs that ensure that children can grow and live in an environment of familiarity in the case that the child loses its family. One of SOS Children’s Villages operates in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso with a population of 1.5 million people. SOS Children’s Villages’ work in Ouagadougou, specifically the SOS Social Center revolves around its mission to ensure that children have access to health care, education and social services through family strengthening programs. SOS Children’s Villages is among the five charities operating in Burkina Faso that help families and children find social security while providing access to the very necessities required to survive.

Humanity & Inclusion

Burkina Faso became the first country where the organization began its work in 1991, focusing on “defending the rights of people with disabilities and responding to the urgent needs of the people affected by conflict.” Humanity & Inclusion’s work in Burkina Faso spans multiple facets, including physical rehabilitation, maternal and child health, inclusive education, disaster risk reduction and mental health and psychosocial support, along with road safety and protection. Humanity & Inclusion is one of the five charities in Burkina Faso that works tirelessly to address poverty in Burkina Faso by focusing on development, health and rehabilitation. The organization’s 187 members undertook 12 projects within the country, with 50% working on humanitarian efforts and 25% on chronic crises and 25% on development needs in 2021. 

Caritas

The organization emerged in 1956 and began operations in Burkina Faso in 1998. Caritas’ presence covers the entire country of Burkina Faso through its “15 diocesan offices and more than 200 Caritas parish branches.” By utilizing the branches, Caritas “aims to promote mainly community and integral human development, social justice, peace and human rights.” Caritas Burkina offers programs that align with its goals of alleviating poverty by solely focusing its work on women and families along with younger individuals through humanitarian development that fosters solidarity and sharing of resources to help facilitate expansion.

The Barka Foundation

The Barka Foundation is an organization that began in 2006 and is based in the United States. It began its work in Burkina Faso in 2009. The Barka Foundation is a younger charity compared to other charities discussed. Still, regardless of longevity, the Barka Foundation is among the five charities that operate in Burkina Faso. The organization focuses its work from a perspective of longevity and community-driven programs involving accessibility to clean water, agriculture improvement, women’s empowerment and human rights and minimizing the effects of changing weather patterns. The Barka Foundation sets itself apart from other organizations working in Burkina Faso by ensuring that its mission to alleviate and combat poverty does not obstruct the lives of the indigenous people, thereby mitigating western influence and developing relationships with them to help provide them with basic survival needs.

Looking Ahead

All the charities mentioned above work tirelessly to address poverty in Burkina Faso. Each charity offers and provides unique programs and initiatives to help the people of Burkina Faso access necessities such as health care, rehabilitation and social and economic security, along with tools to combat the effects of changing weather patterns and, most notably education and security for children affected.

Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Alergia is one of the largest countries in North Africa, both by size and population. Like any other country, Alergia is not perfect, as the upper middle-income nation has a poverty rate of 14.6%. That high rate can be connected to issues such as femicide, stagnant economic growth, a decline in the hydrocarbon sector and a private sector struggling to energize the economy. However, a number of charities in Algeria are working to address poverty conditions among the most vulnerable groups.

4 Poverty-Fighting Charities in Algeria

  1. Oxfam in Algeria: Oxfam is an international charity that focuses on alleviating global poverty. While the nonprofit functions around the world, its focus in Alegria has been on Alegria’s Sahrawi refugee camps. Since 1975 Sahrawi refugees have remained dependent on humanitarian aid to provide basic necessities. Oxfam works to combat poverty for those living in the camp by improving food security through increasing access to fresh produce. Importantly, it is also teaching Sahrawi refugees to develop and run small-scale agroecological farms. Since most Sahrawi families lack access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) recommended 20 liters of fresh water a day, Oxfam concentrates on improving family water storage tanks, installing strong hosepipes to homes and other similar technical upgrades for water access and capacity enhancements. Because a number of highly-educated young women and men in the camp become frustrated with their lack of socioeconomic opportunities, Oxfam also focuses on community engagement for these young adults.
  2. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme (WFP) helps tackle the issue of malnourishment which is a problem, especially for Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. Luckily, in 2021 alone, the WFP supported 138,421 people in Algeria and provided nearly a million dollars worth of cash-based food assistance. Targeting anemia, stunting and malnutrition, the WFP runs 29 nutrition centers that offer both treatment and prevention strategies. The WFP also provides daily school snacks to nearly 40,000 children to encourage them to enroll in school. Finally, the WFP focuses on resilience-building projects like low-tech hydroponics and fish farms.
  3. Algeria UNAIDS: The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) UNAIDS is leading efforts to reduce AIDS from a public health threat by 2030. UNAIDS attempts to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of HIV around the world and Algeria is no exception. As of 2021, 21,000 Algerian adults and children live with HIV. Unfortunately, this number is on the rise. UNAIDS in Algeria is focusing on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. It is also specifically investing in programs that promote support in terms of education, rights and leadership for women, girls and young people.
  4. SOS Children’s Village: SOS Children’s Village is a global charity that operates in Algeria. Human rights organizations have criticized Algeria’s “Family Code” which severely limits rights for women. Underage marriage is prevalent and women who do want to marry face strict guardianship rules. Thousands of children wander the streets without parents or without support from their families.  SOS Children’s Village focuses on protecting children without parents or who come from abusive families. Specifically, SOS provides daycare and medical care. Also, SOS mothers provide support for suffering children in SOS families.

These charities in Algeria are not only helping to eradicate poverty, but they are also changing the overall landscape of the country for the better.

– Luke Sherrill
Photo: Flickr

Families Uplift Single Mothers
Millions of women in Africa experience single motherhood as a result of widowhood or divorce. Single mothers often turn to their immediate and extended families for various forms of child care and parenting support. Families uplift single mothers in Africa by giving them the time and opportunities to develop careers while also raising their children. Parenting support from single mothers’ families can allow women to eventually support themselves and their children independently.

Single Motherhood in Africa

Widowhood and divorce often leave women in Africa to take care of their children without a partner. Single motherhood involves a variety of hardships, many of which are rooted in economic concerns. Women in Africa are commonly married off young before they have the opportunity to complete their education and develop a career. Some single mothers turn to prostitution or other dangerous forms of work to earn money and support their children.

Unemployment is vast in many African countries, especially for women. Widows, in particular, may face difficulties supporting their children because some families disown widows and do not consider women family members when their husbands die, according to SOS Children’s Villages. When a single mother is able to receive support from her family members, perhaps by moving in with them, she may gain the time and resources to find work and better support her children.

The Role of Family Support

When women in Africa experience widowhood or divorce, they often turn to their extended families for assistance in covering finances and child care. Single mothers who live in areas with struggling economies may be especially reliant on family support to raise their children. A research study on family support of single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya, found that the majority of women in the community receive some form of support from their family networks. However, the study found that the extent of a family’s support depended on family members’ age, employment status and geographic proximity to the single mother.

Family support of single mothers may be especially prominent in Africa due to widespread poverty and limited governmental resources to assist women who are raising their children alone. Families uplift single mothers in Africa by helping them raise their children, develop careers and escape poverty.

Next Steps in Uplifting Single Mothers

Families with single parents are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty. Women who raise their children without a partner’s support may struggle to find and maintain a job while juggling parental responsibilities. Single mothers’ families may provide some emotional and practical support, but additional governmental assistance is necessary to ensure the safety and success of single-parent families throughout Africa. Policies that promote financial security, social assistance and greater access to job opportunities can help empower single mothers in Africa, especially if women lack families to help them support their children.

In countries that lack governmental policies to assist single parents, family support uplifts single mothers and gives them the opportunity to gain financial independence. When families uplift single mothers with emotional, financial and practical assistance in child care, women may be able to seek out and maintain stable career opportunities. Further governmental action is necessary to support single mothers in Africa, but families can make substantial differences in the lives of single mothers and their children.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Bulgaria
In 2018, across almost 50% of European Union states, children held the “highest risk of poverty or social exclusion.” More specifically, Bulgaria has the highest rate of child poverty in Europe with more than half of children living in or “at risk of poverty,” according to SOS Children’s Villages. Many factors contribute to child poverty in Bulgaria, including malnutrition and deficiencies, lack of education and child discrimination.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition negatively affects the mental and physiological capacities of children. This can cause poor productivity levels, which can increase the risk of widespread poverty in a country. In 2019, 144 million children younger than five suffered from stunted growth due to inadequate nutrition globally. Children in Bulgaria are especially at risk. Two out of five Bulgarian children do not have access to daily protein-rich meals such as meat, chicken or fish, which equates to a type of material deprivation. In 2017, about 42% of these children became at risk of poverty.

Vitamin deficiencies from food also contribute to child poverty in Bulgaria. Due to low income, many families of low socioeconomic status find themselves searching for energy-dense foods that are often nutrient-poor. Some of these nutrients may include vitamins B and C as well as calcium and iron.

According to a 2013 research study, in the Bulgarian population, 21.3% of individuals are deficient in vitamin D, a vitamin the body uses to build and maintain bones. In a study on vitamin D deficiencies by the McCarrison Society in 2015, “Children adopted from Ethiopia, Peru, India, Bulgaria and Lithuania were at significantly higher risk” of having a vitamin D deficiency than children from other countries. Without adequate vitamin levels, children may not be physically capable of escaping poverty as they may lack the energy and vitality to attend school or work a job.

Lack of Education

Schools in low-income municipalities of Bulgaria struggle to maintain a good quality of education. Even though the Bulgarian government mandates provision of cost-free pre-primary education, many areas do not have the resources to provide this education free of charge. Furthermore, Bulgarian municipalities with limited finances are unable to guarantee sufficient heating in all rooms during the winter. Without the guarantee of high-quality education in an environment conducive to learning, it is difficult for children to escape generational poverty.

The education of parents and family members is also an important factor in child poverty in Bulgaria as higher education can help individuals secure skilled, higher-paying employment opportunities. The Social Assistance Agency reported the abandonment by parents of more than 1,000 Bulgarian children in 2018 and a major factor in many of these cases is low income, among other factors.

In 2017, the parents of 80% of Bulgarian children at risk of poverty had either no education or just primary level education. Furthermore, children in Bulgaria with parents who did not receive tertiary education are five times more likely to endure poverty.

Discrimination

Many young children in need of early childhood care and education (ECCE) are excluded from the system, especially disadvantaged Roma children. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has segregated schools for Roma children “where the pass rate is low and the dropout rate high.”

Bulgarian children with disabilities are also at high risk of discrimination in their personal and school lives. They are more likely to face family separation, “live in institutional care” or face exclusion from mainstream schools. In 2018, 90% of the children ages 0-3 in Bulgarian infant homes had a disability. Furthermore, “a poll conducted in September and October 2009 among 2,000 elementary school parents and teachers” in Bulgaria shows that almost 40% of parents think that having a disabled student in their child’s class negatively impacts their child’s education.

SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria

SOS Children’s Villages recognizes the high level of child poverty in Bulgaria and has provided support to vulnerable Bulgarian children and families as early as 1990. The organization works to help children access medical care while helping parents secure jobs to support their families.

The organization provides support to Bulgarian youth by helping them develop skills to achieve independence while they attend “further education or training.” SOS Children’s Villages also empowers unaccompanied refugee and migrant children by helping them secure an education.

Today, SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria works with agencies in three locations and is making a difference in the lives of children across the country. In 2017 alone, SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria was able to help 200 children under family-based care.

Child poverty is a serious issue across Bulgaria with many causes. Malnutrition, lack of education and child discrimination are just some of the factors feeding into the loop of child poverty in the country. However, organizations like SOS Children’s Villages are working to put an end to the high levels of child poverty in Bulgaria.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a landlocked nation located in Central Europe. With its rich history and picturesque mountain views, Austria is a well-traveled country in the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, child poverty in Austria is a topic of discussion for many officials and leaders in the Central European nation. In 2019, approximately 372,000 Austrian children and youth younger than 20 years old lived in households vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty. These children, in particular, are more likely to be deprived of opportunities and basic needs in comparison to wealthier households. As such, organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria.

4 Facts About Child Poverty in Austria

  1. Roughly 6.2% of Austrian children live in conditions of relative poverty. About 33% of Austrian children “live with at least one person” who is a migrant. In this case, it is notable that poverty disproportionately affects the migrant population. Other children in impoverished conditions come from large families or single-parent households.
  2. Austria has a particularly high number of child refugees. In Austria, “1,751 unaccompanied migrant children applied for asylum in 2017.” Austria takes in many migrant children from the Middle East and from other war-torn areas of the world. Vienna, the capital of Austria, funded a program for unaccompanied minors coming to Austria, particularly trafficking victims.
  3. Child trafficking is rife. The United States Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report for Austria specified that a Vienna-based program offered legal, psychological, social, language and medical assistance to victims, including child trafficking victims. Though this program did not work in practice, it still aided NGOs and other organizations that advocate for children, migrants and asylum seekers to better identify trafficking victims. Therefore, this initiative still aided the overall global human trafficking crisis, with a particular focus on children.
  4. Rising child poverty rates. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which began in Paris, France, is an organization with various member countries that have commitments to world trade and overall economic progress. It reported that children from Austria are relatively better off when looking at the organization’s average poverty numbers, though these numbers are deceptive. Despite this fact, in 2015, the OECD reported an increase in the number of Austrian children living in relative poverty, even though the country is performing relatively well according to OECD standards.

SOS Children’s Villages

Several organizations aim to address child poverty in Austria. One such NGO is SOS Children’s Villages. The organization’s founder, Hermann Gmeiner, was an Austrian citizen. Gmeiner established the organization in the Austrian town of Imst, Tyrol, in response to the growing number of children suffering “without parental care in post-war Austria.” The organization works with children and families to tackle child poverty worldwide. SOS Children’s Villages has a large presence in Austria, with various initiatives like family strengthening programs, support for children who do not have adequate parental care and accommodation for refugee children. Over the last seven decades, SOS Children’s Villages has improved the lives of more than 4 million children worldwide.

With organizations committing to reducing child poverty in Austria, there is hope for Austrian children to look to a better and brighter tomorrow.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

Ahmad Joudeh and SOS Children's VillagesAhmad Joudeh is a world-renowned ballet dancer and is famous for his performance in Eurovision 2021. His background is less well-known. Growing up in a refugee camp in Syria, Joudeh dreamed of dancing. In 2021, he began volunteering with SOS Children’s Villages, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children and families in poverty and providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed.

Ahmad Joudeh Growing Up

Ahmad Joudeh grew up with aspirations of dancing since he was young. For much of his young life, he lived in a refugee camp. Joudeh lived in an environment where poverty is the norm. The people around Joudeh were primarily unsupportive of his dancing. However, he defied traditional expectations of men in Syria and would dance in the streets.

Joudeh studied dance at the Enana Dance Theatre for almost a decade from 2006 to 2015. He made his biggest appearance on the world stage in Eurovision 2021. In his free time, Joudeh teaches at the SOS Children’s Villages. Joudeh dances with the children and volunteers to inspire them in the art of dance and help them build confidence to navigate any issues that may arise while living in poverty.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages is an international organization with more than 130 “villages” in operation. The organization was founded by Herman Gmeiner in 1949 after witnessing the effects of World War II on local children. Gmeiner developed SOS Children’s Villages with the help of family, friends and generous donors. Since then, Gmeiner’s organization has blossomed to help children on an international scale.

The SOS Children’s Villages help families struggling financially by training parents in skills for workplace environments or counseling families as needed. The organization works one-on-one with children to provide education and health services while advocating at policy levels and providing safe spaces to explore.

Children and Families Using SOS Children’s Villages Services

Since children and families involved with SOS Children’s Villages face financial difficulties, they often do not have the tools or resources to help themselves. As a result, a significant number of SOS Children’s Villages residents rely on education. With volunteers, the organization reaches out within the communities where volunteers operate. The volunteers engage the families and children struggling and provide quality education on life skills.

When SOS Children’s Villages are helping a child or a family, the villages provide a safe space. For hours each day, the families are cared for in a safe environment to foster new habits and skills until each individual or family no longer requires the organization’s services. SOS Children’s Villages operate in areas where poverty is high. For example, in the main village in Syria where Ahmad Joudeh volunteered, the poverty rate reached 80%. The village works with families to ease financial burdens in both the short and long terms.

Building Community

The education provided to parents and children worldwide through this organization helps each person find a good job or mentorship. In addition, with its advocacy work, SOS Children’s Villages helps build protection within communities and in governments to support families in poverty.

Because people born into poverty often do not have access to higher education, they are likely to remain in poverty. In 2018, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) surveyed childhood education, attendance and poverty and found that more than 250 million children globally cannot attend school due to the cost. SOS Children’s Villages provide education to children at no cost to the families to break the cycle of poverty.

Understandably, Ahmad Joudeh knows the strains poverty can have on children. The mental health issues that develop in children living in poverty are most commonly anxiety and depression. So while SOS Children’s Villages operate to ease physical and financial difficulties, Joudeh dances with the children and strives to help them achieve their dreams.

Ahmad Joudeh’s Involvement and His Hopes for the Children

Joudeh has a deep respect for the work of SOS Children’s Villages. For some time, he has taught dancing in the organization’s village in Damascus to help build long-term goals for children. In 2016, Joudeh also did a workshop with the children in the SOS Children’s Village Vicenza. Joudeh dances with the children and guides them to work through their anxieties and constant worries around them. The mental toll on children in poverty in the areas where SOS Children’s Villages operate is devastating.

Joudeh dances with the children step-by-step, providing undivided attention, teaching them to focus on the music and not the world. The safe space he creates through dance grants these children an opportunity to explore and feel free without worries about what the outside world may bring or what challenges await their families. Joudeh dances with the children because his dreams of dance have expanded over the years. The freedom Joudeh finds in dancing is a feeling he hopes to extend to the children in the SOS Children’s Villages.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in BulgariaThe impact of COVID-19 globally is undeniable. From Canada to Ukraine, every nation is fighting the virus. Bulgaria is facing a similar battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty. Organizations are fighting to keep both under control while implementing solutions to address the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria and around the world.

The Fight Against COVID-19

Bulgaria’s first COVID-19 case occurred on May 8, 2020, which was later than many of its neighbors. The Bulgarian parliament quickly went into a state of emergency on May 13, 2020, due partially to the weak healthcare system. Discussions about how to balance the economy and COVID-19 precautions soon started. Despite the government’s best efforts, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria was significant.

The Past Against the Present

Bulgaria’s past has contributed to its present state. Bulgaria became its own independent country in 1908, with the occurrence of World War I six years later. The defeat of Bulgaria in World War I saw the loss of 100,000 people. Twenty years afterward, World War II started, resulting in an eventual Soviet invasion. Communism ruled for the next five years.

These events led to economic unrest for several years. Bulgarians boycotted and protested the crisis several times throughout the years, most recently in 2013. The first protests led to Bulgaria joining the European Union but the transition was rough on living standards. Structural reforms in the late 1990s led to faster growth and better living for Bulgarians, with some economic issues in 2008, 2013 and 2014, despite overall improvement. The impact of COVID-19 on Bulgarian poverty has many experts concerned about a possible relapse into economic decline.

The Virus Against the Economy

The negative impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria began when the country’s economy was doing well. COVID-19 dragged the economy into a recession throughout 2020 and 2021. As a result, poverty in Bulgaria in 2021 could increase before it declines. Job losses and poverty have hit young people especially hard. Bulgaria will take time to recover from the economic shock of COVID-19, according to many experts. Alongside high productivity, experts have emphasized several components that Bulgaria must prioritize for its economic recovery:

  • Optimal use of EU money
  • Reopening of businesses
  • Reducing crime rates
  • More job prospects
  • More educational opportunities

Solutions in the Present

Bulgaria’s long-term recovery will take years, but organizations are currently attempting to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on Bulgarian poverty. SOS Children’s Villages prioritizes the well-being of young people who have suffered the most from poverty in Bulgaria.

SOS Children’s Villages dedicates itself to helping lift children and teenagers out of poverty all over the world. The organization has two bases in Bulgaria — the cities of Sofia and Trjavna. Its focus is on strengthening families, improving care in families and providing support for young people. The organization also promotes advocacy and improves emergency programs for unaccompanied refugee children. Reducing the child poverty rate is the overall goal of SOS Children’s Villages in Bulgaria.

Despite the significant impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bulgaria, organizations like SOS Children’s Villages are providing substantial aid. With the continued commitment of organizations, poverty in Bulgaria will reduce and Bulgaria will find its way to economic recovery,

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

Mental health in ItalyItaly is the fourth most populous nation in Europe, with a population of 60.36 million people as of 2019. As it stands, Italy remains one of the most COVID-19 affected countries, and the resulting lockdown has had a noticeable impact on the mental health of the Italian population. However, there is more to the story of mental health in Italy than the effects of the pandemic.

Italy’s Past Relationship with Mental Health

Italy passed Law Number 180 in 1978. Law Number 180 blocked all new admissions to Italian mental hospitals. This subsequently led to all mental hospitals in Italy closing by the year 2000. This change came about so that mental patients would receive similar treatment to other patients with physical ailments. Psychiatric wards that still exist in the country are located inside general hospitals with roughly 10 available beds in these wards per 100,000 people, and only 46 beds per 100,000 people in community residential facilities. These numbers can also vary significantly between geographical areas.

The State of Mental Health in Italy

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy had been doing relatively well in terms of mental health. For example, in 2016, Italy had one of the lowest suicide rates among G7 countries, at 6.3 suicides per 100,000 people. This is less than half the rate of the United States in 2016, which was 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2017, 5.1% of the Italian population suffered from some form of depressive disorder and 5% of the population suffered from an anxiety disorder.

The Effects of COVID-19

The full effects of COVID-19 on mental health in Italy are unknown. However, psychological studies conducted while lockdown measures were in place provide some clarity on the subject. One online survey issued approximately four weeks into lockdown measures in Italy showed notably increased rates of post-traumatic stress syndrome, symptoms of depression, insomnia, symptoms of anxiety and perceived stress.

The Future of Mental Health in Italy

According to experts, there are going to be psychosocial and economic ramifications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, due to the trauma associated with being a frontline worker, there is a projected decline in the mental health of frontline doctors and nurses. This decline will also affect members of the Italian population that have undergone any psychological distress because of the pandemic.

Steps have already been taken to help those suffering from COVID-19-related stress. In March 2020, the Italian government launched a national mental health service intended to combat the rise of mental distress in Italy. The program works with institutions and regional associations to provide free emergency help from psychoanalysts and psychologists. The new mental health service can also provide necessary mental resources to low-income families and individuals living independently as they are more at risk of developing mental health disorders.

Additionally, SOS Children’s Villages, an organization that has also taken action on the issue of mental health in Italy during COVID-19, has partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the City University of New York and the WHO to train individuals on how to provide low-intensity psychological interventions to individuals in need of psychological aid.

The “Living with the Times” toolkit made by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support also helps to provide adults with the tools necessary to support one’s mental health, as well as the welfare of those around them.

Italy has a unique relationship with mental health treatment, and COVID-19 presents an unusual challenge for the nation. Efforts by the institutions that have partnered with the Italian government, as well as local NGOs and nonprofits, aim to reduce the damage caused by COVID-19 by making mental health care widespread and accessible.

– Brendan Jacobs
Photo: Unsplash