According to Dictionary.com, the definition of privilege is “the unearned and mostly unacknowledged societal advantages that a restricted group of people has over another group.”
Here in the United States, you might hear the idea discussed in terms of white privilege – the societal advantages afforded to white people that often pass by unnoticed. Examples of white privilege are everywhere, but primary among them is the ability to move through life without being racially profiled or stereotyped, an experience common among Black and Brown people.
But race is only one category that might qualify a group as being exempt from the particular hardships faced by another group. For example, those who are born into a wealthy family or community are privileged over those who are born into poverty. Those who are born in a country experiencing prosperity and peace are privileged over those who are born in a country torn by war, food insecurity or a natural disaster. When the circumstances of our birth set us up for success in any way, we are privileged. With that in mind, it’s probably fair to say that when we closely examine our lives, most of us are privileged in some form.
While many of us would like to think that we all operate on a level playing field in life, the reality is that human beings are born into vastly different circumstances – and where, when and how a child is born determines much of who they have the chance to become.
To put the idea of privilege into perspective, around 10 percent of people in the world are currently living on less than $1.90 a day. Many of them are children. In fact, of that 10 percent, around 46 percent are kids under the age of 14.
Underprivileged children are vulnerable to many kinds of harm, from poor access to education and health care to an increased risk of abuse, exploitation and other forms of violence. According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 crisis is expected to hugely increase the number of children living in extreme poverty, rolling back much of the social progress the world has made in the last several decades.
With so many underprivileged children in the world, you might be wondering what concrete action you can take to fight for social justice for kids.
Understanding our own privilege has a way of opening our eyes to the needs of others. We want to see more fairness in the world and work to change the root causes of poverty and injustice.
In fact, that’s why many people choose to sponsor a child. It allows them to connect with a child from an underprivileged community who may lack many of the things that sponsors have always taken for granted, like nutritious food, clean water, free basic education and more.
And because ChildFund works through local partner organizations made up of local people who understand the most urgent needs of their communities, sponsorship donations do more than put a Band-Aid on the problems that underprivileged children face – they actually help address the harm caused by generations of marginalization and help create societies that value social justice for kids.
When asked why he became a ChildFund sponsor, Jonathan in Pennsylvania replied with a simple story.
“All these starfish are washed up on the beach, and there’s a guy trying to throw them all back into the ocean,” Jonathan said. “Another person who’s with him challenges him, saying, ‘There are so many starfish here. You’ll never make a difference.’ And the first guy just picks up another starfish and throws it into the ocean and says, ‘It made a difference to that one.’”
No matter what our level of privilege, the truth is that we all have much more in common than we might think – and those who are feeling fortunate can do a lot to help the children of the world. Sponsor a child today and find out for yourself what a difference it can make.