Emily Psarris, author

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,1 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.”2 According to Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”3

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.”4

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 a Child Sponsorship Program center class

The staff at this Child Sponsorship Program 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.5 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 a Child Sponsorship Program center posing together with teachers

Where this GFA Child Sponsorship Program 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 GFA's Child Sponsorship Program 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.6 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 Child Sponsorship Program 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 GFA's Child Sponsorship Program 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 the Child Sponsorship Program, they hear something very different.

Alongside their schoolwork, children attending GFA's Child Sponsorship Program 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 Child Sponsorship Program 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 Child Sponsorship Program 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.7

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, sponsored 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.

Child Sponsorship Program teachers and students

At the center, Child Sponsorship Program teachers have fun with the children to compliment their studies. In addition, staff periodically visit their children and their families at their homes, which helps strengthen their relationship further. The children enjoy talking and interacting with 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).”8

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.”9

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.10 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,11 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.12

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.13 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.


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,14

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 laborers15 or 152 million child laborers.16 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 more than

1,500 robberies.17

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.18 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.19 Her help, however, came in the form of tutoring, moral lessons, food and school supplies through GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program.

Child Sponsorship Program Teacher

Child Sponsorship Program 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 Child Sponsorship Program,” 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 the Child Sponsorship Program, 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 the Child Sponsorship Program 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 a Child Sponsorship Program center

Most parents of children attending GFA's Child Sponsorship Program are unable to afford their child's school fees let alone other essentials, such as stationery and other school supplies, uniforms, and toiletries, so the Child Sponsorship Program 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 a Child Sponsorship Program Center

These children are being tutored at a GFA Child Sponsorship Program 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.20 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.21

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.22 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.”

Child Sponsorship Program 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.”23

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:24

“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.”
Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King

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 GFA's Child Sponsorship Program, where they can receive an education that transmits positive values, and provides a hope-filled future.

How Your Donations Are Applied

We value your donation and are committed to good stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our friends and donors. All gift options represent GFA’s actual ministry efforts to meet the diverse needs of individuals and communities. Regardless of particular preferences, monies are raised for ministry purposes, and GFA retains discretion to use donated funds in any manner that serves GFA’s charitable objectives.

This ends the update to our original Special Report,
which is featured in its entirety below.

Emily Psarris, author

When considering the issues of poverty and lack of education, an old saying comes to mind: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Poverty and low education are each self-perpetuating: Those born into poverty (or illiterate households) often live the remainder of their lives in that same condition and have nothing more to offer their children.25 What’s more, it is as if poverty and low education have a magnetic attraction, relentlessly pulling those who are caught in one cycle deep into the other too.

Why is that?

Kristina Birdsong, a writer for Scientific Learning, sums up the relationship between poverty and education by saying, “Today more than ever, education remains the key to escaping poverty, while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education.” 26

Let’s look at one example:


With her husband out of the picture, illiterate Dayita was forced to become the sole provider for her four children.

Dayita is a mother in Asia living with four children. Poverty and illiteracy permeated her village and her life. Dayita’s husband had consumed so much alcohol that he became too sick to work or even get out of bed, which meant Dayita had no choice but to be the family’s sole breadwinner.

But she was illiterate.

What job opportunities did she have? Manual labor. She and many other illiterate women in her area collected firewood from nearby forests and sold it to provide for their families. It was physically taxing work that kept her from being with her children and still paid very little. But it was all she could do.

“Education remains the key to escaping poverty, while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education.”

Dayita’s illiteracy and poverty set the trajectory of her children’s lives, too. The fight to obtain morsels of bread for their hungry tummies consumed all her strength; sending her children to school was not even something to dream about. And Dayita couldn’t teach her children anything of the alphabet or of mathematics, knowing none herself. Instead of going to school, her four kids roamed around the village, “cared for” by the eldest child, 7-year-old Kasni.

The cycles of poverty and illiteracy were continuing in Dayita’s family, and there was nothing she could do to arrest them.

These women are working on road construction project in Asia.

These women are working on road construction project in Asia. Around the world, women are more likely to be paid less than men and to face unemployment.

Poverty’s Pervasive Stranglehold

Dayita was not alone in her plight.

An estimated 767 million people lived below the poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2013, according to the UN.27 In 2014, some 263 million children and youth were not attending school, and more than 70 percent of the out-of-school children who should have been in primary or secondary education lived in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.28 In the United States, a report revealed that in 2014, “approximately 15 million children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty.”29

Living hand to mouth

Many impoverished families know education is the long-term solution to their financial troubles, but it is out of reach. A family’s financial position influences more than you might think upon initial consideration.

The father who works from sunup to sundown seven days a week will have little time to mentor his children. The same could be said of the mother who labors in the fields all day. During their most formative and vulnerable years, millions of children are left alone during the day to wander in their villages. Many will adopt poor social habits and learn nothing of respect or self-discipline. School is out of the picture for them; all the family’s energy must be focused on providing food and shelter.

A child washes pots

A young boy in Pakistan. One in three Pakistanis lives below the poverty line. Photo by Muhammad Muzamil / Unsplash

Often, a family’s financial plight is so desperate that even young children must contribute to the family income. For the roughly 150 million child laborers in the world,30 there is no school, no delving into their nation’s history, and no adventuring to museums to learn about science and art.

No money means no food, which means malnutrition and increased health problems. No money means no doctor visits, and in the case of a medical emergency, no money may mean indenturing a child to work off the incurred debt after receiving critical treatment.

Living hand to mouth kills dreams. For many, ambition becomes unrealistic amid the ever-present fight against starvation. How many of us have asked a young child what they want to be when they grow up? In many poverty-stricken areas, however, a child might respond to that question with a look of confusion. The only future they can see is following their parents in becoming a farmer, a daily laborer or, if they’re lucky, maybe a skilled tradesman.

For the majority of children raised in poverty-stricken communities, the fruit of their harsh childhood is more of the same. When they become parents, they will raise their children as they themselves were raised—unless they can manage to find a way out, into a new way of life.

This woman works alongside her husband to make bricks, bringing her infant with her. Both men and women work hard in rural villages to try to make ends meet.

This woman works alongside her husband to make bricks, bringing her infant with her. Both men and women work hard in rural villages to try to make ends meet.

Education’s Holistic Impact on Family Life, Income

God’s creation of the human mind is a marvelous thing. It has the capacity to imagine, dream, create, cherish, remember, deduce, learn and use logic. When given opportunities through education to learn, cultivate skills and dream, we are capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. To name a few, these include sending human beings into space, discovering medical breakthroughs, crafting new written languages and rebuilding crumbled economies.

We’ve glimpsed snapshots of what happens when mankind lacks the necessary opportunities to cultivate the amazing mind God has granted him. Underdeveloped minds and absent opportunities steal much of the influence people could make if they only had a chance.

Underdeveloped minds and absent opportunities steal much of the influence people could make if they only had a chance.

What does it look like when people with little or no opportunity to receive an education are at last given that chance?

An article posted by Schools & Health states, “Education is fundamental to sustainable development, it is a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health; it enables people to be more productive, to earn a better living and enjoy a better quality of life, while also contributing to a country’s overall economic growth.”31

The impact of education on children, families and entire communities affected by poverty is vast and multi-faceted. Let’s consider just a few of the most prominent outcomes of education.

Education’s Impact on Income

Solutions to Poverty: Girls attend school in a Tent

Girls study in a UNICEF-supported ‘tent school’ in Afghanistan. Many of their families have been displaced by conflict.
(Photo by UNICEF)

The strong connection between education and income is easy to identify. For every year of primary education received as a child, a worker’s earnings experience a 10 percent increase.32

Knowledge of a skill empowers breadwinners to find jobs with better pay and better hours. A literate person in Pakistan earns 23 percent more than an illiterate worker. And in the female workforce, a woman with high literacy skills can earn 95 percent more than an illiterate woman or one who has low literacy skills.33

In rural Indonesia, those who finish lower secondary education are twice as likely to escape poverty. In addition, their chances of descending into poverty are reduced by a quarter.34

In one study done by an EFA Global Monitoring Report team, findings revealed, “If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.”35

Increased education doesn’t only open new job opportunities for breadwinners; it also enables workers to succeed in their inherited family businesses. Farmers who receive an education are more likely to implement the use of fertilizers and be better equipped to understand the needs of their crops and soil. Equipped with mathematical skills, a parent can wisely make choices on purchases, contracts and family budgets. And in any business, an increased understanding of finances and mathematics helps guard business owners against being taken advantage of.

If a mother can read, her child is 50 percent
more likely to live past the age of 5.

Education’s Impact on Health

The increase in pay a literate person receives also increases their chance for a healthier life. The extra income buys food for children who might otherwise suffer from malnutrition; it gives the family the option of visiting a doctor for medical treatment—and even better, it enables them to undergo preventative medical care such as regular checkups or vaccinations.

A healthy breadwinner misses fewer days of work than a sickly one, and medical bills demand less from the family budget. But education’s impact on a family’s health extends beyond their improved financial situation.

A child in the Child Sponsorship Program washes his hands

By learning how to wash his hands, this young student in GFA’s Child Sponsorship Program helps his family to be more healthy.

Education also empowers parents to make wise, healthy choices for their families.

If a mother can read, her child is 50 percent more likely to live past the age of 5.36 The mother is able to read warning labels and follow those simple instructions intended to protect her family from diseases or accidents.

In places where education is absent, superstitions abound. Misconceptions on proper health practices endanger grown adults and children alike—especially children in the womb. In the case of one mother in Asia, her lack of education tragically resulted in her child perishing before birth.37 Sadly, her story is repeated in villages across the globe. Simple health care classes for women who never received education can mean the difference between lost pregnancies and healthy, full-term babies.

One of the most common hygiene practices—hand washing—is virtually unknown in some parts of the world. According to UNICEF, “Rates of handwashing around the world are low. Observed rates of handwashing with soap at critical moments—i.e., before handling food and after using the toilet—range from zero percent to 34 percent.” As a result, easily avoided illnesses are claiming millions of lives. Every year, diarrhea claims the lives of more than 1.5 million children under the age of 5; proper handwashing practices can reduce diarrhea by more than 40 percent.38

A person’s health impacts their education as well: A study among primary schools in China with active hand-washing promotions and distributions of soap identified that students missed 54 percent fewer days of school compared to students whose schools had no such program.39

Nelson Mandela
“No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
— Nelson Mandela

Education’s Impact on Society

There is power in education. “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated,” said Nelson Mandela.40

Education inspires dreams and equips citizens to pursue their goals. The resulting entrepreneurial efforts help boost economies and create jobs, which aids in global efforts to eliminate poverty. Literacy is also key to being informed about what is taking place around the world. It builds global awareness into a person’s heart and enables them to engage with others in ways that are impossible without literacy.

The UN states that “quality early education provides children with basic cognitive and language skills and fosters emotional development.”41 Alternatively, an estimated US$129 billion is lost each year due to the 250 million children globally who are not learning basic skills (and thus have less potential).42 The importance of quality education on society is revealed by its inclusion in the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals.43

Ashmita, who is now able to go to school because of GFA's Child Sponsorship Program.

Beyond influencing the economy of a society, education also touches the fibers of morals and lifestyles in a region.

Beyond influencing the economy of a society, education also touches the fibers of morals and lifestyles in a region.

According to Professor W. Steven Barnett, author of Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications, a child’s academic success can be impacted by early childhood education, which can also reduce incidences of crime and delinquency.44 The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child confirms that a person’s childhood heavily influences their mental, physical and emotional development, with children raised in secure, loving environments thriving more than children who have experienced trauma even one time.45

Do you remember the joy you felt as a child when you did something well in school? The sense of accomplishment and the praise from a teacher or parent give courage and confidence to approach other challenges in life.

In the same way, the shame felt when encountering failure can hinder children in life. If a child grows up with a constant sense of failure and insufficiency, that can result in low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Training children at an early age to pursue their goals and giving them the tools they need to succeed prepare them to thrive in the future challenges they will face as adults.

Women, learning to read for the first time, hold literacy books.

More than 250 million women in Asia are illiterate. The women pictured learned how to read for the first time through GFA World supported literacy programs.

GFA World Introduces Education to Families in Poverty

Remember hardworking Dayita and her roaming children? Their story also serves as an example of the powerful gift of education.

One day, some staff members from a local GFA World-supported Child Sponsorship Program center met Dayita and her family. Upon hearing of her struggle and seeing the condition of the family, the staff members offered Dayita’s 7-year-old daughter, Kasni, the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to go to school.

That day changed the course of Dayita and Kasni’s family: The cycle of poverty and illiteracy began to break.


Dayita’s 7-year-old daughter Kasni is now enrolled in a GFA-supported Child Sponsorship Program center and is learning skills that will enable her to leave the cycle of poverty behind.

At the Child Sponsorship Program center, Kasni began learning skills that will empower her to escape poverty, subjects such as arithmetic, science, language skill and history. She also had opportunities to learn about art, dance, respect and self-discipline. She thrived in her new environment, and her joy spread to her family.

Dayita had never dreamed she would be able to send her daughter to school, yet now her little Kasni was developing and growing into a bright young student. Kasni’s future would hold more hope than her own had held at age 7, and hopefully Kasni would be spared from many of the trials Dayita had experienced from her illiteracy.

The Child Sponsorship Program center impacted the family in additional ways, too. Kasni received a nutritious meal every school day, which helped ease the financial burden of the family. She and the other Child Sponsorship Program students participated in health awareness programs and medical checkups, and all their books and school supplies were provided by the center. In addition, special programs were held regularly to help cultivate students’ social skills and character.

Kasni continued to care for her younger siblings for a portion of the day, and with her new skills of respect and responsibility, she was better equipped in her role as an elder sister.

Many of the things Kasni learned through the center benefited her mother as well. Special programs for the parents helped Dayita grow in knowledge, too.

Kasni is just one among 75,000 children enrolled in GFA’s Child Sponsorship Program. Through the Child Sponsorship Program, these children and their families are finding a new way of life—a life that leads to hope and a door out of poverty.

A teacher teaches childer at the Child Sponsorship Program center

Teachers at GFA-supported Child Sponsorship Program centers teach with love and care, which helps the children enjoy class and excel in their studies.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty Through Education

Overwhelming evidence of education’s effectiveness in reducing poverty has prompted massive efforts around the world to make quality education available to everyone—especially to the poor.

A teacher in a UNICEF-supported school teaches young children

An instructor plays with kindergarten children at an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Haiti.
(Photo by UNICEF)

These efforts range from large-scale endeavors like those of UNICEF and Global Partnership for Education, to family-run schools and volunteer-led tutoring. Although the groups are different in size, they have one significant component in common: people who are doing what they can to help the needy children in their sphere.

GFA World (GFA) is just one of those players, yet God is using this one organization to impact thousands of lives. GFA’s Child Sponsorship Program began in 2004 and was designed to help transform the lives of children who live in poverty. Recognizing the broad reach poverty has on families and children, Child Sponsorship Program takes a holistic approach to education, investing in the minds, emotions and bodies of the students. Food, clothing, encouragement, medical care and times of childhood fun all work together to build into the students’ lives and prepare them to be valuable citizens in their countries.

Stories abound of the transformations taking place in these little children—children who are growing up to be well-equipped adults who know they have value and potential. Children who were painfully shy or woefully behind in their studies when they started at the Child Sponsorship Program later dream of becoming doctors, engineers or teachers. Others aspire to design clothing or to help poverty-stricken families climb out of poverty. Some will grow up to hold positions of great influence in their society, others will help their family farms prosper in improved ways, and still others will invest into the lives of their children the way the teachers from the Child Sponsorship Program invested in their own lives. These children have learned to dream, and their education equips them to pursue those dreams, contribute to society and raise their children-to-come with the same life-changing values they have embraced.


Aayush joined GFA's Child Sponsorship Program at 10 years old. Now a capable young man equipped with a quality education, he is pursuing his goal of becoming a teacher.

As far as which comes first, poverty or lack of education, the answer isn’t clear. But the solution is clear. And when you address one issue, you also address the other. The “magnetic draw” between poverty and education doesn’t only have to pull people down; it can also give the leg up needed to escape both perpetuating cycles.

Despite the magnitude of the task and the global scale at which education is needed, we’re talking about individual human lives, each one precious and full of potential. While the statistics of need can be overwhelming, we must stop and celebrate the lives that are being touched and the futures that are being transformed. Just one life changed in a village can multiply to impact hundreds of other lives.

It is good to ask ourselves what our part is in these global efforts. Not everyone is meant to be the leader of a large-scale movement to bring education to the world. Some people need to be teachers; others need to be financial backers for those who are on the frontlines; and others can be advocates for quality education in their own spheres of influence.

What is your part?

Give towards GFA's Unsponsored Children's Fund

GFA World supports more than 70,000 children in our Child Sponsorship Program; providing food, education, medical care and the hope for a brighter future. The Unsponsored Children's Fund enables us to care for children who do not yet have a sponsor.

How Your Donations Are Applied

We value your donation and are committed to good stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our friends and donors. All gift options represent GFA’s actual ministry efforts to meet the diverse needs of individuals and communities. Regardless of particular preferences, monies are raised for ministry purposes, and GFA retains discretion to use donated funds in any manner that serves GFA’s charitable objectives.

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