Poverty is often multi-generational and ongoing. As a result, helping children can not only improve their outcomes, but those of future generations as well.
19 Aug, 2021
The Cycle of Poverty
Without quality education, disadvantaged children are far more likely to be trapped as adults in low-skilled, poorly paid and insecure employment, preventing them from breaking intergenerational cycles of disadvantage.1
This is the life-long danger all children face when they grow up in poverty.
The different aspects of childhood poverty overlap and reinforce one another, leading to a cycle that not only is difficult to break, but is likely to carry on from one generation to the next. For example, a child who remains malnourished into adulthood is likely to have children who are also malnourished.2
In fact, child poverty itself is the main reason why poverty continues in the next generation.³
How Compassion Helps
Poverty has a devastating impact on every area of life. As an organisation, Compassion is driven to bring love, hope and support to those who need it most by releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name. Our response is Christ-centred, child-focused and church-based.
We work in partnership with local churches who understand the needs of their communities. With the generous prayer and financial support of sponsors and donors in Australia and around the world, we work to support local churches as they serve the children in their area.
Through our Child Sponsorship Program and Critical Needs funds, over 2 million children across more than 25 developing countries receive care, love and support through their local church and child development centre.
Through our Child Sponsorship Program and Critical Needs funds, over 2 million children across more than 25 developing countries receive care, love and support through their local church and child development centre. Compassion's holistic model aims to reduce the vulnerability of children and their families through year-round nutrition, health, education, spiritual and household income generation support.
The needs of each child are varied, and our holistic approach aims to care for them spiritually, economically, socially, emotionally and physically. We believe every child is special and uniquely made by God, so everything we do is tailored to meet their specific needs while treating them with the dignity and respect they deserve.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, he spoke at a synagogue in Nazareth. Luke 4 recounts how He stood up and read from Isaiah:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” —Luke 4:18 (NIV)
In 4:21, He then explains to the people that "this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus announced that He had come to preach the good news of God's kingdom and how all things would be renewed. The Jewish people had been longing for the ultimate hope and restoration the Messiah would bring ever since Isaiah first gave this prophecy. In Luke 7:22-23, Jesus proves He is the Messiah the people were waiting for through the restoration he brought: "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor."
Only Christ can bring ultimate restoration and renewal, both now and with finality in the future.
Compassion strives to show love to those in need just as Jesus did, while also recognising that all of us share the greatest need: full restoration that only He brings. During our Child Sponsorship Program, all children have the opportunity to hear the gospel in a culturally relevant and non-coercive way. Though we do not shy away from proclaiming Jesus, we also equally assist children and their families regardless of their religious beliefs and backgrounds.
As you read in Part 1 and Part 2 of this Poverty Explored blog series, children suffer the greatest impacts of poverty but have the least control over their circumstances. This is why Compassion helps children living in poverty and gives them the opportunity for a brighter future.
We want to see the most vulnerable and marginalised children on our planet grow up to become thriving followers of Jesus who are positively influencing their world.
We want to see the most vulnerable and marginalised children on our planet grow up to become thriving followers of Jesus who are positively influencing their world. As each child thrives, their positive contributions can benefit others around them and build resilience.
Independent research has shown that our Compassion Child Sponsorship Program works. As a result of their time in the program, children are between 30-75% more likely to become leaders in their community, between 27-40% more likely to complete formal secondary education and between 14-18% more likely to have salaried employment as adults.4
We recognised the complexity of poverty, and so our program cares for children holistically in all areas of their lives. Compassion ensures that all children are known, loved and connected in their communities. This is the cornerstone of all our work.
In the Philippines, 10-year-old Key Angel sees this in action through her local church. “I just feel safe and happy here and also we get to play different kinds of games,” she says. “And I love listening to Bible stories.”
Her mother, Liz, feels the same way. “My daughter is now well-behaved, obedient and is studying hard. I can see that she has a bright future ahead of her. She can still be naughty and very playful, of course, but I know that being at the centre is not just child’s play; it is building her future.”
Poverty is not just economic circumstances, but the result of broken relationships between people, the world, ourselves and God. As a result, an important task of development is to "bring people into relationships that are wholesome and edifying" so "communities meet their basic physical needs."5
Compassion partners with local churches around the world to deliver our program because they understand both their communities and the love God has for His people. Church leaders know the needs and challenges of their communities and are best able to identify what help is needed and who most needs it. They adapt our programs in order to bring long-lasting change in the ways most relevant to their communities.
Local churches and child development centres become places where children belong and are cared for.
In Peru, Larry, the father and sole caregiver of 6-year-old Ariana and 5-year-old Clarita, was run over by a truck, leaving him with life-threatening injuries. His recovery took 18 months and required eight surgeries. Throughout that difficult period, the local child development centre supported the family alongside their friends and relatives.
“Our service to God motivates us to help those in need. It’s part of the work we must do as a church," says Rusbel, the director of the centre. "Our partnership with Compassion is beautiful. We thank them for being part of us and for helping us look after our children and their families.”
“The centre has been with us since day one," says Larry. "Their help is so valuable to me. What they do for us reminds me that God is looking after us, and He never leaves us nor forsakes us. It makes me happy to see my girls smile. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Clarita agrees. “I thank the centre because they bring us groceries! We help our daddy put them away.”
More Than Sponsorship
Every Compassion assisted child will, at some point, require care beyond sponsorship’s reach. In addition to our sponsorship program, our Critical Needs programs provides customised, and often urgent, care for all registered children.
Critical Needs include health services, additional education and training, pre- and post-natal care, clean water facilities, construction and many other essentials. These services allow our partners to deliver a truly holistic solution for children from birth until they become adults.
Releasing Children From Poverty
Compassion's mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus' name. This is a holistic solution that targets more than just material wealth. Poverty may be a lack of goods or education, but it can also be strong feelings of powerlessness, despair, shame and a hopelessness that life will never change.
Our child development program distinguishes itself by its holistic focus that includes social, emotional, physical and spiritual support in all areas of a child's life.
Our child development program distinguishes itself by its holistic focus that includes social, emotional, physical and spiritual support in all areas of a child's life. Research shows that "the most salient characteristic that distinguishes Compassion’s program from comparable interventions is its emphasis on raising children’s self-esteem, reference points, and aspirations. As such, it aims to simultaneously relieve both internal and external constraints."4
Children sponsored by Compassion are not only more likely to become leaders, salaried workers and more highly educated, as discussed above, but also on average have higher self-expectations for the future6, self-esteem and hopefulness.4
These are just a few reasons why we passionately believe in a holistic model: all areas of a child’s life need attention and care. Our model also accounts for spiritual wellbeing, because we know that only Jesus can bring true restoration.
Join us as we complete our exploration of poverty in Part 4 of this blog series and learn how you can make a real difference.
Words by Andrew Barker with field reporting by Fernando Sinacay and Edwin Estioko.
1 United Nations Children's Fund (n.d.). UNICEF and the Sustainable Development Goals. https://www.unicef.org/sdgs#sdg3
2 International Labour Organization (n.d.). What is child labour. ILO. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang--en/index.htm
3 United Nations Children's Fund (n.d.). Fighting child poverty. https://www.unicef.cn/en/stories/fighting-child-poverty
4 Wydick B., et al (2013). Does International Child Sponsorship Work? A Six-Country Study of Impacts on Adult Life Outcomes. Journal of Political Economy, Volume 121, Number 2.
5 Offutt, S (2012). New Directions in Transformational Development. The Asbury Journal, 67 / 2:35-50.
6 Ross, P (2010). An Investigation of Reference Point Shifts from a Child Sponsorship Program in Bolivia. Working paper, University of San Fransico.
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