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What Stands in the Way of School for Teens in Developing Countries

“A child’s life is a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.”

This Chinese proverb fits well with conversations this week as we celebrate the United Nation’s International Youth Day (August 12) and align with the organization’s 2018 theme: Safe Spaces for Youth. The theme recognizes that youth from diverse backgrounds need safe spaces to be assured of respect and self-worth, and contribute effectively to society.

Leave a mark.

The question we have at Jake’s Diapers is what kind of mark can we leave for the vulnerable children we serve? They often face overwhelming barriers to achieving a quality life.

Globally, about 263 million youth do not have a chance to enter or complete school, according to UNICEF’s 2017 annual report. They can’t even arrive at their safe place, a place that should allow them to thrive.

In Puerto Rico, for example, where the poverty rate is an astonishing 43.5% according to United States Census Bureau data, many households struggle to afford basic needs. In this case, youth drop out of school to help supplement household funds, said Loraine, a mom in Puerto Rico who helps Jake’s distribute diapers, and many times in a not so legal way. The cost of school supplies, uniforms and so forth contribute to the struggle.

In families with multiple children, the distance from schools creates an additional barrier. Elementary and grade schools are not in the same place, Loraine said, and parents struggle in a family of three different grade levels to get children to their relevant safe space.

“That deprivation has lifelong consequences that often mean that the next generation, too, will start out at a disadvantage,” UNICEF’s website explains. “The resulting cycles of inequality and deprivation thwart the potential of both individuals and societies.”  

So back to Jake’s Diapers question: How can we best leave a positive mark? Loraine says, “little by little, we can make a difference.”

Help Loraine and others support youth in Puerto Rico.

Help children in poverty worldwide.

#YouthDay #SafeSpaces4Youth