Fighting Extreme Poverty with Ideas & Education that Imparts Values

Uprooting global poverty requires education that transmits values

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World and affiliates like Gospel for Asia Canada) founded by KP Yohannan, issued this Special Report on the massive challenge of reducing extreme poverty worldwide, mainly through providing education, transmitting values.

GFA World, founded by KP Yohannan, reports on the massive challenge of reducing extreme poverty worldwide - through providing education.

In my original special report for Gospel for Asia titled Solutions to Poverty-line Problems of the Poor and Impoverished, I explored education’s impact on extreme poverty eradication. This update explores the idea that uprooting poverty requires education that transmits positive values.

Reducing extreme poverty is a massive challenge. Groups around the globe approach the issue in a variety of ways, the most common of which is by providing education. A strong, multifaceted link bonds poverty and lack of education, so experts around the globe are attempting to bring education into poverty-stricken areas.

E.F. Schumacher
E.F. Schumacher
Photo by The Schumacher Institute

But even with academic lessons and increased school attendance among low-income families, children will be short-changed if in the end they don’t gain the ultimate endowment: ideas and values that empower them to thrive.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” According to Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

E.F. Schumacher writes in his influential economics book Small Is Beautiful, “The task of education would be, first and foremost, the transmission of ideas of value, of what to do with our lives. There is no doubt also the need to transmit know-how, but this must take second place, for it is obviously somewhat foolhardy to put great powers into the hands of people without making sure that they have a reasonable idea of what to do with them.”

“When people ask for education,” Schumacher continues, “they normally mean something more than mere training. … I think what they are really looking for is ideas that would make the world, and their own lives, intelligible to them.”

Why do ideas and values matter so much? Because they have the power to transform the world—to uproot global poverty.

Concepts like honesty, diligence, respect, compassion and valuing human life are widely acknowledged as good—yet in many communities around the world these values are not being demonstrated or taught to children. When one individual has a foundation of beneficial values like these, he or she can impact other lives, from their own family to the entire world. For the sake of simplicity, our individual will be referred to as “he,” although both males and females are able to make incredible changes to the world around them.

Children listening intently in Bridge of Hope center class
The staff at this Bridge of Hope Project Center in West Bengal provide their children with an ongoing education and transmit positive values with utmost care and responsibility.

Personal Impact of Ideas, Education

Schumacher defined education’s primary purpose as being the transmission of values. Positive values and ideas make a significant impact on one individual, and global change is impossible without changed individuals. The story of a young boy in Asia exemplifies the life-changing power of education plus ideas.

Children in Bridge of Hope center posing together with teachers
Where this GFA Bridge of Hope center is located, around 40-50 percent of children drop out of school after fifth or sixth grade. Thankfully, these children pictured will have a higher success rate because of the help and encouragement that Bridge of Hope is to them and their families.

Six-year-old Bir helped his farming family by scavenging for plastic bags they could use to take their produce to market. His community held fast to time-honored traditions, which ensured stability but also locked families into generations of poverty.

Even though Bir’s family lived in poverty, the young boy still had the gift of attending school. But he floundered in the classroom. His books were filled with valuable information, and his teachers taught lessons that had the potential to change Bir’s life, but Bir lacked the discipline of listening and didn’t know how to get the knowledge from his books into his mind. The shame from his terrible grades stamped out the little boy’s motivation. Education was in his hands, but it wasn’t enough.

Then a GFA World Bridge of Hope center opened in his village. Bir and dozens of other kids in the village enrolled, eager to receive free tutoring and supplemental education.

Most of the children attending Bridge of Hope live in deep poverty. Many reside in places where impoverished children grow up hearing they aren’t important, they can’t ever amount to much, and they don’t deserve anything better. But at Bridge of Hope, they hear something very different.

Alongside their schoolwork, Bridge of Hope children learn lessons on values such as diligence, honesty, kindness, respect and more. They learn their lives matter—no matter how poor their families are or how behind they are in their studies. Students thrive under the enriched education they receive from their Bridge of Hope teachers, and they gain courage and motivation to make the best of their lives.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” According to Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

Through these foundational teachings at his Bridge of Hope center, Bir changed. He saw his potential and diligently applied himself to his studies—and to his chores at home. He learned to honor his parents, and he worked hard. By the time Bir completed 10th grade, he stood at the top of his class. Armed with impressive grades and strong values undergirding his choices and habits, Bir could pursue a college education with every reason to hope for continued success in life.

Education changed Bir’s life, but it wasn’t through academics alone. The right values enabled Bir—and thousands of other children like him—to succeed in schooling and find a better way of life. For the rest of their lives, Bridge of Hope children like Bir will know they, along with every other person, have worth and purpose. They will have the know-how to pursue their goals and to help those around them. They will become promising citizens any nation would be proud to claim as their own.

Bridge of Hope teachers and students
At the center, Bridge of Hope teachers have fun with the children to compliment their studies. In addition, BOH staff periodically visit their children and their families at their homes, which helps strengthen their relationship further. The children enjoy talking and interacting with BOH teachers whenever they visit, and the values of love and kindness get transmitted beyond their school life into their home life as well.

Ideas’ Impact on the Family

375 million children are living in poverty, UNICEF estimates.Thanks to quality, value-centered education, children become well-rounded, capable, confident adults. They know how to implement knowledge to better themselves and others, and they have a sense of participation in the world around them.

How will they impact their future families?

Parents play an undeniably important role in children’s lives. According to an article on parenting skills from Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, “Many of the skills children acquire during the early years are fundamentally dependent on the quality of their interactions with their parents. For instance, parents play an important role in fostering children’s early learning (e.g., language and problem-solving abilities) and in shaping their social-emotional skills (e.g., emotion regulation, reactivity to stress and self-esteem).”

The article goes on to state how the parents’ involvement with their child heavily influences the future success of the child’s cognitive potential, social skills and behavioral functioning.

Anna J. Egalite
“In most studies, parental education has been identified as the single strongest correlate of children’s success…” —Anna J. Egalite
Photo by @annaegalite

Anna J. Egalite, assistant professor of education at North Carolina State University, reaffirms the impact of parents’ education on a child’s success. She writes, “In most studies, parental education has been identified as the single strongest correlate of children’s success in school, the number of years they attend school, and their success later in life.”

Values are always passed along from one generation to the next—but they can be beneficial or detrimental. A parent who values the rights and dignity of others will teach their children to do likewise, even if they live in poverty and their society mistreats them because of their low status. A parent whose diligence and integrity enabled them to overcome financial and societal obstacles will encourage their child to press on in the same way. Their message to their children will be, “You can do it!” Conversely, a parent who doubts their worth and that of others, or who was discouraged from rising above “their station” will likely pass a dooming message to their children, squelching aspirations for a better life.

Poverty is a heritage millions of children receive—and wrestle to be free of. UNICEF estimates 375 million children are living in poverty. But when parents or teachers pass an education, filled with empowering ideas, into those young hands, the horizon holds incredible opportunity. The foundation of global poverty quivers, just one generation later.

GFA Pastor teaching children by the street
In this village in Meghalaya where not one person was literate, a GFA pastor is teaching these little children how to read and write, and showing the love of God in the process.

Ideas’ Impact on Society

History provides ample examples, some inspiring and some horrifying, of how ideas and values impact society and poverty.

A widow with her children
Assam: In many parts of Asia, when a mother is widowed, she is often shunned by her community, friends and family, leaving her and her children in a pressing state of survival, with often no hope for a better future.

Some values led to the formation of the slave trade, while other values led to its abolition. Some ideologies spurred violence, while others prompted the construction of relief camps and orphanages. The ideas propelling men like Stalin and Hitler left behind a wake of death and poverty. These examples reveal the importance of having positive guiding values.

The plight of the world’s 258 million widows, and hundreds of thousands of people with leprosy, reveals how harmful ideas actively reinforce poverty in our time.

Widows and leprosy patients in Asia typically live in positions of great need. Misfortune has made their lives very challenging, yet very few people around them consider them worthy of generosity.

Despite living where honor is a key fiber of the culture, widows of any age may be cast out of the home, abandoned to fend for themselves or easily taken advantage of. Many cultures hold the idea that a husband’s death is the fault of the wife; thus, when the husband dies, the widow “deserves” to be shunned. Over the decades, that idea has irreparably harmed the lives of countless widows and their young children, who also suffer the consequences of their mother’s rejection and subsequent poverty.

Similarly, leprosy patients are commonly expelled from their homes, disowned by their family members and even divorced on the grounds of their diagnosis. Poverty quickly fills the void created by retreating family members.

Neither a husband’s death nor a disfiguring disease justifies neglecting a human being. But in many societies in Asia and other parts of the world, this neglect is the norm and is even supported through legislation.

When individuals have the unique experience of rising out of poverty, they know what others in poverty around them need. When they have the chance to be a help to others or a voice for poverty alleviation, their firsthand experience will serve them well.

But look at what happens when positive values enter a widow’s life and replace damaging ones.

Last year, GFA World shared the story of a woman in Asia named Prina. When her two sons had grown, she discovered she had leprosy. Not long after her diagnosis, her husband was murdered during a land dispute. Prina now bore the double burden of leprosy and widowhood, both of which brought great ostracism from her community.

Prina
People with leprosy, like Prina, are often shunned, banished or ostracized in Asia and are often transformed when treated with respect and given unconditional love and compassion.

Prina was not forced to make her own way in the world, as many others have been, nor did she fall into extreme poverty as a result. But her son’s family, with whom she lived, banished her to one room in the house. None dared enter it. They brought her food once a day but only stood at the door. Prina was alone.

Then one day, some women from a local GFA Women’s Fellowship came to Prina’s home. Unlike most others in their culture, they did not fear Prina’s status as a widow or her disease. The women treated Prina with respect and love—something Prina had not experienced for many years.

The Women’s Fellowship team explained that Jesus loved her. Hearing this, Prina’s heart lifted. She mustered her courage and ventured out of her home to attend a worship service with her new friends. There, she received love and acceptance. And soon, after much prayer, Prina received healing from the physical pain her disease caused.

Prina’s son and the entire community witnessed a better way to treat widows and leprosy patients, and it left an impression. The values of unconditional love and compassion, lived out by a few women in the name of Christ, transformed Prina’s situation. And these values can transform so many more.

Chain Reaction

One individual whose values have enabled him to rise from poverty and whose children are benefiting from his foundation can make an impact that expands to his society.

Integrity is one of the qualities employers look for most. Billionaire Warren Buffett explains,

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett
Photo by Javier, Flickr
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

The workplace quickly turns dark when negative ideologies are present. But on the flipside, business benefits mankind in beautiful ways when positive values define the scene.

A business owner’s upright values will dictate the way he treats his employees. He will not stoop to exploiting any of the world’s 24.9 million forced laborers

or 152 million child laborers.

On the other hand, an employee with positive values will not take advantage of his boss. His honesty will strengthen the company, which in turn will strengthen their local economy.

Values also determine whether a person will be marked by crime. Education alone helps people to respect justice, and their values will only solidify that position.

A report examining the correlation of education rates and crime reduction in the U.S. revealed that increasing the male high school graduation rate by just five percent would:

decrease overall annual incidences of assault by

nearly 60,000

decrease of larceny by

more than 37,000

decrease of motor vehicle theft by

more than 31,000

decrease of burglaries by

more than 17,000

It would also prevent nearly

1,300 murders

prevent occurrences of more than

3,800 rape crimes

prevent and more than

1,500 robberies.

When an individual has the unique experience of rising out of poverty himself, he knows what others in poverty around him need. When he has the chance to be a help to others or a voice for poverty alleviation, his firsthand experience will serve him well.

Kanal with his family
“By selling the piglets, we have bought a goat and chickens, which will be another source of income for our family. We do not have any problems now paying the school fees for our children. We also purchased roofing sheets to construct our house. I thank God for all the blessings this pig has brought.” —Kanal from Arunachal Pradesh

Kanal, a father in Asia, experienced this very thing.

After years of desperately struggling with poverty, he received a piglet at a GFA gift distribution organized by the local church. Later, the pig had a litter of eight piglets. He sold seven of them for a sizable profit and finally had the financial breakthrough he needed to start rising out of poverty.

Over the following months, Kanal’s pig bore another 10 piglets. Each one propelled the family farther out of poverty.

Kanal’s children saw how one person’s generosity changed their family—and then they saw their father do the same thing. Even though his family had many needs, Kanal’s gratitude for his amazing gift led him to donate one piglet back to the church so another family could receive a life-changing gift. Then Kanal approached one of his neighbors who also struggled with poverty and gave them a piglet as well. His neighbor would raise the piglet, and when it was ready to go to market, they would share the profits. Kanal is on his way out of poverty, and he plans to bring others out with him, too.

Ashima, a young girl in Asia, received help much as Kanal did. Her help, however, came in the form of tutoring, moral lessons, food and school supplies through GFA World’s Bridge of Hope Program.

Bridge of Hope Teacher
Bridge of Hope teachers, like this gentleman in West Bengal, typically serve children from impoverished situations, including those kids whose parents are affected by leprosy. They provide their students with a quality education, a daily nutritious meal, loving care and practical supplies like soap, schoolbags, and school uniforms.

“Before coming to the Bridge of Hope,” Ashima said, “I was not able to study seriously because of the problem and inconvenience at home, and the financial problem that we are going through.”

Ashima’s problematic home life and lack of guidance led her to skip school and waste her educational opportunities. Sadly, Ashima’s instructor scolded and punished her instead of teaching her the values she needed to succeed.

But then through Bridge of Hope, Ashima received the guidance she needed to develop positive character traits and values, which enabled her to excel in her studies—and in life. Less than a year later, Ashima’s story was quite different.

“My future ambition is that I want to become a medical doctor,” she shared. “Especially I want to serve the poor from our society because … once we were very poor, and because we were poor, we were not able to buy so many things. It affected us very badly. And now, because Bridge of Hope is here, this is helping poor and the needy people like us. I also want to help and serve all the poor children and poor people who are suffering.”

Ashima is one more person being lifted out of poverty because of empowering values—one more life being equipped to help others escape extreme poverty.

Girl receiving school supplies from Bridge of Hope center
Most parents of Bridge of Hope children are unable to afford their child’s school fees let alone other essentials, such as stationery and other school supplies, uniforms, and toiletries, so Bridge of Hope provides all these essentials through sponsors from America and Canada, relieving the parents of a great financial burden. Here, Ashima receives a few supplies that will help her and meet some of her family’s needs.

What Can We Do?

Children studying in Bridge of Hope Center
These children are being tutored at a GFA Bridge of Hope center in Nepal. Each child is given the education and opportunity to have the courage they need to transform their generation and the ones after them.

As astonishing as it may be, one person can make a significant impact on global poverty. Jesus changed countless cultural and societal norms when He came to earth and taught profound new ways of thinking. Notably, the values Christ embodied have a life-altering impact, and even today, where the Church serves, lives improve. As far back as Apostle Paul’s time, values led the early church to share among each other to the extent that “nor was there any among them who lacked” (Acts 4:34). Uprooting extreme poverty community by community is not impossible, but it requires determination and positive foundational values.

A person looking for ways to fight extreme poverty will find countless organizations to partner with through donations. That is the easy part.

But each person must, in addition, consider the following: What values are they promoting? What are their children and co-workers learning from them? Do their daily activities uplift others? Or are they reinforcing negative values, even if those values are a few steps removed?

In recent years, more people have become aware of the human rights issues present throughout many supply chains. And because people are choosing to live in accordance with positive values, they are supporting the companies that reflect those same values, such as treating employees well and paying them an honest wage. Taking steps as simple as supporting companies with ethical supply chain practices can diminish the world’s poverty.

Another critical step toward poverty eradication is equipping and supporting excellent teachers. Education workers play a vital role in children’s development, for obvious reasons. Their influence, knowledge and teaching skills have the potential to transform a child’s life—or to destroy it.

Zaid Adil Sultan, a manager at a refugee camp in Iraq, relates a sobering example. When a militant group gained control of the region, its leaders inserted new teachers and programs into schools. The ideologies held by the group infiltrated curriculums, teaching children as young as 6 or 7 to use weapons.

“They gave them ‘courses’ that encouraged violence,” Sultan said. “In math, instead of teaching them that one plus one equals two, they taught them that one bullet plus one bullet equals two bullets.”

Bridge of Hope teacher with student
Education transmits values. As individuals and nations, we bear the responsibility to teach the next generation the ideas and values that will promote upward movement, not deeper poverty. This Bride of Hope teacher in Karnataka is assisting this student to improve in his studies and in building his character.

He went on to explain how children have been severely scarred by the indoctrination. Specialized workshops have opened to help children recover, but removing the damaging ideologies from young minds has proved difficult.

“The hardest age to treat is boys from 14 years old to 17,” Sultan said. “People have told me that before their sons went to those schools, they were okay, but after they went, they were coming home hitting their siblings and threatening to kill them.”

Education transmits values. As individuals and nations, we bear the responsibility to teach the next generation the ideas and values that will promote upward movement, not deeper poverty. Amazing teachers and professors around the world are helping children learn the skills and values necessary to thrive in life—and we thank them for their dedication. Yet many children live in places where negative values dominate ways of thinking, even among educational staff, and where poverty abounds.

Every culture is susceptible to damaging ideologies and to the poverty those ideas can generate. But great change is possible as individuals examine what values they are reinforcing and partner with educators who promote the positive values every child, family and community needs to rise out of extreme poverty.

A closing word from Dr. King:

Dr. Martin Luther King
Dr. Martin Luther King
“Education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…
The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

Provide a Values-centric Education to Children at Risk in Asia

If you want to help children at risk in South Asia, consider a one-time donation to stand in the gap for boys and girls who need to be freed from hopeless situations into Bridge of Hope, where they can receive an education that transmits positive values, and provides a hope-filled future.


Provide Values-centric Education to Children at Risk in Asia »

If you want to help children at risk in South Asia, consider a one-time donation to stand in the gap for boys and girls who need to be freed from hopeless situations into Bridge of Hope, where they can receive an education that transmits positive values, and provides a hope-filled future.


About Gospel for Asia

Gospel for Asia (GFA World, www.gfa.org) is a leading faith-based mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially to those who have yet to hear about the love of God. In GFA’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.


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