Feeding Minds: How We Are Ending the Cycle of Poverty

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Throughout the world, about 215 million children have to work—some of them full-time—to help their families make it through the day. They can’t attend school because it’s more important that they find food or sell scraps or haul water.

This is the third in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Our Four Pillars—Food & Nutrition, Health & WaterEducation, and Livelihoods—comprise an 8- to 10-year, integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Education pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by providing children with educational opportunity and support.

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If you were to take a tentative step into the fetid streets of the Kibera slum of Kenya, the first thing you might notice is the stench—one million people packed into one square mile without plumbing will do that. You’d notice poverty streaked into every face. You’d notice children scavenging; you’d notice babies languishing.

But what you might not notice—not right away, though it’s there—is the hope slowly growing. Because tucked into a cluster of tiny ramshackle building is Spurgeons Academy.

Feeding children in body and mind

Throughout the world, about 215 million children have to work—some of them full-time—to help their families make it through the day. They can’t attend school because it’s more important that they find food or sell scraps or haul water. Food and water are the most basic human needs, and every other need, no matter how important, falls by the wayside when people don’t have them.

Children living in poverty don’t get proper nutrition. Children who are poorly nourished can’t make education a priority. Children who lack education remain living in poverty. And on it goes.

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So Feed the Children breaks into this cycle to come alongside families who desperately need a way out. We run programs at schools in impoverished areas around the world, like the Kibera slum, to regularly provide nutritious meals to 350,000 children who might otherwise go an entire day without eating. We provide school materials like backpacks and uniforms. We pay for teachers if none are available in a community. And if a school doesn’t already exist in the area, or if it’s in disrepair, we build a new one—and this is often the only place a community has access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

The food and clean water they can count on getting at school is a strong incentive for attending—and while they’re there to get their most basic needs met, they get an education too.

Educating parents to raise healthy kids

Providing education for children is an important part of our work—and so is providing education for their parents. By teaching the adults in impoverished communities good health, nutrition, and sanitation practices, we equip them to improve the quality of life for their whole family.

In the Pueblo Nuevo community of Nicaragua, we recently held a comprehensive two-day training on nutrition and preventative health. Nineteen women learned about the food chart; the relationships among health, nutrition, and education; signs of malnutrition, including measurement of children; hygiene in food handling; and personal hygiene.

The women were enthusiastic about the training and are eager not only to get more, but to pass it along. They recognize that this kind of education has tremendous ability to further the hard work they’re already doing in their community to improve their children’s health and give them a better future.

Kids can’t thrive when their families are trapped in poverty. Education is the key to breaking them out of the cycle. If we want to improve their lives, we have to help them get an education. And we do.

With school walls separating them from the slum, the children are insulated for the day. Most of them are orphaned or have only one parent—and that parent is either gravely ill or struggling to support the family with odd jobs for meager pay. There is no doubt life in Kibera is beyond difficult.

But this morning they chatted and laughed over their hot bowls and fresh cups, and now they’re engaged in the lesson—fed in body, mind, and spirit. When Spurgeons Academy opened in 2000, a handful of children attended, but with the assurance of a meal every day, now over 400 come.

Inside these walls, they have hope—and it shows.

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