By Jo Ann Ancheta-Lim
Hesser Foundation: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Literacy, One Child at a Time, One Family at a Time, One School at a Time, One Community at a Time
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) of the Republic of the Philippines reported that 23.7% of Filipinos (26.14 million) were classified as poor in the first semester of 2021. This is an alarming statistic given that this definition of poverty is based upon a family of 5 living with less than $241.64 per month. The PSA reported that in 2016, 6 out of 10 families were deprived of a basic education whereas 5 out of 10 families in 2017 were considered to be deprived of a basic education, an increase of 10% from the prior year. These families had at least one family member who did not complete a basic education which coincides with an intergenerational cycle of illiteracy.
The interconnection between illiteracy and poverty is undeniable. Those living in poverty are forced as children to drop out of school to work for survival, and those that are illiterate remain in poverty as they are forced to accept low paying jobs.
This direct correlation between literacy and poverty is summarized by Doctor Suess as follows:
“The more that you READ, the more things you will KNOW, the more that you LEARN, the more places that you will GO.” From I Can Read with my Eyes Shut by Doctor Suess.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines cycle as “a course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point.” A cycle of poverty and illiteracy is one that is intergenerational, where a child born into poverty becomes an adult who raises children in poverty. Poverty and illiteracy are persistent conditions that can be unlocked and reversed but often require outside intervention.
In order to break the cycle of poverty, we need to promote literacy and education to unlock a child’s knowledge, potential, goals, and dreams. Literacy is a catalyst for change and is essential to self-sufficiency and lifelong learning.
Literacy should be a right and an opportunity afforded to all without regard to social class, ethnicity, religion, or gender. However, we know that this is not a reality for many.
Those living in persistent poverty may be broke but they are not broken. The Hesser Foundation shows children that strangers even from the other side of the world care about them and see their value and potential. This caring and support system brings hope, self-esteem, and the needed boost of confidence and dignity to the children who oftentimes do not know a life outside of poverty. The gift of literacy provides individuals with the tools to uplift themselves from poverty and to ultimately change their destiny, allowing them to take a step forward in breaking an unending cycle.
Let’s work together to remove the barriers to literacy to end poverty with kindness and compassion.