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Disrupting Poverty With Innovative Ideas

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Posted on 2/11/2016

Poverty is complicated. It requires the work of many to address its causes and effects. It takes long and sustained efforts, sometimes over a period of decades, to help communities overcome poverty. And the battle continues in places all over the world.

At ChildFund, we’ve learned a few things about fighting poverty. For one thing, community members, even the youngest children, need to be full participants; it doesn’t work for outsiders to swoop in, change a few things, toss some money at the problem and then leave. That can make matters even worse for an impoverished community left without the skills and income to support positive, sustainable change.

Instead, we must listen to community members and take their input seriously. That’s how innovative ideas arise and take root. Innovation and imagination, we’ve seen firsthand, can disrupt the vicious cycle of poverty.

Indonesian mothers sort through garbage

Indonesian mothers sort through garbage that is later assigned a monetary value. The money then goes into participating families’ bank accounts.

Disruption is usually considered a negative, but we want to disrupt poverty’s path, especially for the world’s youngest children, to give them the best chance of reaching their potential. We need to stop poverty in its tracks by providing children, youth and family members with access to education, health care, job training, clean water, proper sanitation, good nutrition and safety. Fulfilling those needs makes disruption a net positive.

Here are three ways that people in communities where ChildFund works are using education to disrupt poverty.

In Senegal, many adults are illiterate, and that makes it hard for them to monitor their children’s progress in school. The creation of color-coded report cards has partially solved this problem, letting parents and caregivers know immediately if their children are struggling in school. It’s a simple solution, but it took the kind of environment where creativity and imagination are encouraged. Now, families communicate with their children’s teachers more often.

In rural India, ChildFund and its local partners have been engaged in a yearlong campaign to encourage children to read for fun, as a way to tackle the widespread problem of illiteracy. Another widespread problem is that many households don’t have electricity. Until recently, night meant the end of the reading day. But in June, 40,000 children received solar-powered lamps, which are already giving children more opportunities to read, study and do other activities after sunset. Parents, too, are benefiting from the lamps, which they use to cook by and do other chores.

In India ChildFund distributed solar lanterns to children

In India, ChildFund distributed solar lanterns to children during the second phase of its Books, My Friends campaign. These lanterns allow children who do not have electricity in their homes to read and complete homework at night.

Finally, in Indonesia, families are literally turning trash into treasure. Mountains of garbage are common features of the country’s landscape, but participants in the community garbage bank program are trained to collect and deliver waste to collection points where it is sorted and assigned a monetary value. The money then goes into participating families’ garbage bank accounts and can be used for school supplies, fees and more.

That’s the thing about disrupting poverty; it requires concerted effort, education, respect for communities’ values and voices — and creative inspiration. That’s what your support allows us to accomplish, along with teachers, parents, government officials, local leaders and, most of all, children. We all have a stake in this fight.