“The UN has declared 2021 to be the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. With so many students around the world dropping out of school, it is believed that more than one in 10 children are engaged in some sort of child labour.”
It was the year the world shut down. We grew tired of hearing words like “unprecedented” and “pandemic,” both of which made the Oxford English Dictionary’s top words of 2020. We are now ready to hit “resume” on this prolonged pause, crumple up and throw away the “new normal,” and pick up where we left off.
All done with the proverbial summer vacation, we are ready to jump back into our regular lives with all the anticipation of a student returning to school. It feels like a heavy burden has lifted.
COVID-19 has taken much from us. Lost lives, lost income, lost time, and even lost peace of mind as children’s stress in this age of anxiety went off the charts. There are many losses we desperately want to regain. Kids in Canada have been denied access to quality education which, experts say, could set students back for years.
But in developing nations, this pandemic hasn’t just created a pause. It’s been a full stop.
Agencies like the United Nations believe that many students around the world will never go back to school. They have missed too much education and cannot catch up. Their parents have lost income and are struggling to feed their families. For many, an education now seems impossible.
The UN has declared 2021 to be the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. With so many students around the world dropping out of school, it is believed that more than one in 10 children are engaged in some sort of child labour. Child labour includes both paid and unpaid work which is harmful to a child’s physical, mental, social or educational development. In many of the least developed countries where ERDO works, one in four children aged five to 17 are currently child labourers.1
For these nations whose children have lost so much during this pandemic, these statistics are not just devastating but a daily reality.
The good news is that we serve a God who promises to lift our heaviness. Isaiah, in the great prophecy of the coming Christ, says that He will come to “comfort all who mourn … to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:2-3, NKJV). Life with Christ means that we, too, are called to lift one another’s burdens when we live in community.
In Honduras, PAOC global worker Kathy Mizen and her ministry, Schools of Hope Honduras, have focused on a single goal. In a recent blog post, Kathy says their purpose is to “encourage, challenge and even push people to succeed and not give up.”2 During COVID-19 lockdowns, Schools of Hope, among many other inspiring child sponsorship fields, has been an example of how to keep pushing, inspiring and launching children in the developing world.
Schools have been closed, but that hasn’t stopped the Schools of Hope team from reaching out to their community of Tegucigalpa, where almost 30 per cent of residents live in some type of poverty. Before COVID-19, Schools of Hope started a breakfast program in schools. Knowing that many of their students would arrive at school hungry, teachers started off the day with a nutritious breakfast supplement. Students soon discovered they could learn much better on a full stomach.
But after the lockdowns began, the team knew many of their students would only be receiving one meal each day. They started distributing breakfast cereal, along with fruit, so children would have food at home. The additional income needed for parents to care for children through the day would also be lifted with the Schools of Hope food packages.
This is not the only child sponsorship area feeding children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen it countless times in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Guatemala, Malawi and Zimbabwe, among others.
Schools of Hope Honduras knew students would lose time out of classes and were afraid these children would eventually give up on their dreams. Their response was proactive. They set up a tutoring program where students could learn in smaller groups while being socially distanced. These tutoring groups kept kids and staff safe while continuing to educate and encourage children.
Discipleship classes were held in much the same way. Children learned about Christ and about one another, growing in their faith and their desire to help their neighbours.
Every child kept in school, inspired by their teachers and discipled in the love of Christ, is one child saved from abuses like child labour. In the words of Tiffanie Rowley, our global worker in Cambodia, “The families of CCP [ChildCARE Plus child sponsorship] are different from the families in their surrounding areas ... [due to] a transformed life because of the gospel. When you sponsor a child, you are actually able to stop not only the cycle of poverty through education, but through the family dynamics, you are able to stop human trafficking.... Child sponsorship is essentially ending the cycle of abuse in various forms here in Cambodia.” 3
Thank you for sponsoring children through ERDO and our partners and for seeing the value of what we’re working toward together—a brighter future for children in need.
If you do not yet sponsor a child, we encourage you to consider helping a boy or girl who is waiting for an education, either through ERDO or another child sponsorship agency. When you help a little one, you are touching Christ. As He says, “… when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40, NLT). Consider sponsoring a child and making this amazing work possible.
Visit http://www.erdo.ca/sponsor-now to help a child in need today.
Alicia Kolenda is the marketing and communications co-ordinator at ERDO. She is passionate about children being released from poverty and set free by the love of Christ.
- United Nations, “World Day Against Child Labour,” accessed July 20, 2021, https://www.un.org/en/observances/world-day-against-child-labour.
- Kathy Mizen, “Sometimes A Little Push Is All You Need,” Kathy’s Adventures, May 1, 2021, accessed July 20, 2021, https://pkmizen.wordpress.com/2021/05/01/sometimes-a-little-push-is-all-you-need.
- Tiffanie Rowley, “Cambodia Child Sponsorship,” YouTube, uploaded by ERDOVideo, June 11, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN6CmRCo72c.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2021 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2021 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo: A tutoring program underway in Honduras, done through ERDO’s partner, Schools of Hope, and PAOC global worker Kathy Mizen. Photo © ERDO.