Note: This is a guest post from Children International, a top rated charity that provides assistance to children and families struggling in terrible poverty.
Jim Andersen knows the answer almost before you’ve asked the question. “Education,” he says without pause. “That’s the answer. There is no other good way.”
The question, of course, is how to help a child escape poverty. And as an engineer working on large international projects, Jim has had the opportunity to travel the world and see how education can work magic in places where poverty has a stranglehold on families. That’s why he always emphasizes the importance of staying in school and studying hard.
“You can be anything you want,” he wrote in that very first letter to his sponsored child, Babylene, who lives in Tabaco, Philippines. “Education is the key. You can improve your life and help your family.”
That letter and those that followed have left an impression.
“His words encourage me to do my best,” says 10-year-old Babylene. “I study hard so he’ll be proud of me.”
And proud he is. Told of Babylene’s response to his gentle but consistent nudging, there’s a long silence before Jim musters a response, “That makes you feel really good.”
End of the Rope
Babylene’s mother, Evelyn, is at the end of her rope. Literally and figuratively. Abandoned by her husband before Babylene was born, Evelyn has held her family together as a rope maker – the only skill she knows. But her income is never assured. Most days it’s minimal, and some days it’s nonexistent. “This week, it’s raining, and I’m having a hard time making ends meet,” she confesses.
Rope making is something handed down to Evelyn by her mother. The materials and the market are readily available in the rural village they call home, but it’s a family trade she doesn’t want to pass on to her four children. Education, she insists, will be the turning point. Without it, she affirms, “they’ll end up having miserable lives. They’ll end up nowhere.”
Power of the Pen
For Jim, there was never any doubt that change was possible with the right approach. After seeing how poverty slowly drains opportunity from the pool of talent and hope that lives inside every child, he’s committed to sticking with Babylene and supporting her continued learning through sponsorship.
“I’ve seen real poverty,” he notes. “Education is the one thing I truly try to focus on. It’s the answer. When you can change a life and it’s this easy, you have to do it.”
Sponsors may not always fully understand the influence their words and support have…but the children do. And they respond.
Just ask Babylene.