Hundreds of millions of children are pushed onto the margins of society around the world. We work with children and youth who lack opportunity or are among the most marginalized, and with their parents and their communities. The problems they face have consequences on the whole of society.
“When children experience poverty, poor health, malnutrition, stress, violence, abuse, neglect, inadequate care or a lack of learning opportunities, particularly during the first years of their lives, their ability to fulfil their potential is at risk.” (The State of the World’s Children, 2016, UNICEF.)
- Unemployed youth – International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics put the number of unemployed youth worldwide at 64 million.
- Child migrants/refugees – UNICEF estimates that there are nearly 30 million children currently in this category.
- Children Living Outside of Family Care – UN sources estimate there are up to 150 million children living outside of family care in the world today.
- Out of school children – recent UN estimates show almost 65 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15 years old were denied their right to an education, in addition to 59 million children of primary education that were out of school.
- Working children – currently stands at 168 million children (source – ILO). More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work.
Recent estimates from World Data Lab suggest that around 600 million people globally live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day. Poverty forces parents in this situation into desperate measures. These include sending their children out to work (often dangerous work with health and safety risks), and keeping them out of school to do that. In some cases, parents will give up their children to institutional care which is detrimental to the child’s well-being.
Poor communities face a multitude of risk factors – these include lack of basic services such as water and electricity, and little or no access to health and education provision. These communities normally have high levels of unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and crime, and are far from the ideal environment for children to live and thrive in.
People in impoverished communities are often seen as a ‘problem’ by authorities and others, something that is best moved further out of sight into ghetto or slum areas where in reality the ‘problem’ festers and grows. Communities such as these across the world face multiple challenges from poverty and deprivation, creating environments where ‘forgotten’ youth can easily fall into crime, drug abuse and radicalization, and become seen as even more of a ‘threat’ to society.
As individuals, and with our businesses, we often react emotionally to what we see as the plight of these children. We want to help. We want to do something for them. We want to donate our money and time to them.
Traditional ‘pity charity’ approaches invariably fail because they most often don’t look to the longer term. Throwing money at a problem does not tackle the root cause, but often our emotions are exploited to fund approaches that simply do not work. We need to ensure that public and other funding is directed toward empowering and sustainable approaches
Residential Care Institutions (orphanages) are one example. All the evidence points to them being actually bad for children, causing physical, mental and long term emotional harm and stunting development. In fact 80% of the children in orphanages are not true orphans, and could (and should) be reunited with their families. However, we are sold the idea of the orphanage being best for them, despite the fact that supporting institutional care is much more expensive than supporting family based care! A whole industry has grown around this in countries such as Cambodia, exploiting not just the children (the ‘commodity’ in this transaction) but also the good intentions of volunteers, led to believe they can really make a difference to these children’s lives as a part of their holiday.