When we talk about poor children or children living in poverty, we tend to assume they live in remote parts of the world, in countries torn apart by civil war or hit by natural disasters such as famine. Maybe Africa, some parts of Asia or South America - that's where all the poor kids live, right?
Poverty does not respect international borders. It is not confined to distant lands, only seen on TV news reports. It's also right here, in our own backyard. The National Center for Children in Poverty estimates that nearly 15 million American children live below the poverty line, which means they don't have enough to eat, or decent health care or a good standard of education. For a country built on a foundation of equal opportunity for all, a lot of citizens aren't getting a fair deal.
Why are poor children suffering here?
So with health care programs, schools in every neighborhood, plenty of food available, and shops full of goods, how is it that 15 million American children live in poverty? What's gone so terribly wrong that we have poverty right here on our own doorstep? The reasons could be any one of a range of social problems that leave the door open for poverty to creep through, unannounced and unnoticed. A factory closing puts hundreds of people out of work; rising living costs mean those with little to start with are left struggling; gang culture and violent crime degenerates a neighborhood into a war zone. All of these situations give poverty a fertile breeding ground, and every time the children are the ones who suffer most. They are the ones who find it hardest to fight their way out of poverty, which breeds a new generation of Americans who know what it's like to suffer the hardships of real poverty in what is supposed to be a land of plenty.
What can I do to help?
We can all take action to help children in poverty right here at home. Sociological studies on both inner-city and rural poverty have shown that a loss of a focal point for a community is one of the biggest contributors to the breakdown of its structure. However, some organizations are attempting to rectify that situation by bringing a message of hope back into these disenfranchised communities. And they're always looking for volunteers to help.
Churches and Christian ministries know that their role is vital, bringing God's message of hope and love to neighborhoods that may have lost that hope and the will to change. They help with programs that encourage the less fortunate to put the teachings of Jesus Christ into practice - teachings that tell us of the importance of loving your neighbor and the value of care, compassion and support for those who are struggling. By getting involved with organizations, either by making a donation of money, time or perhaps both, you can play an active part in fighting poverty at home. By sharing your blessings with others, you can help ease the burden of poverty for those around you. Also remember them in your prayers every day - it can and does make a difference.