A new poll indicates that American young adults, more than any other age group, believe they can make a difference in poverty overseas. The poll, conducted for Compassion International by the Barna Research Group, also showed an increase in giving to the poor in 2005. Officials at Compassion believe that increase was in large part a response to the numerous natural disasters that occurred around the world.
"The tsunami, hurricanes and earthquakes of the past 12 months appear to have had an effect on giving," said David Dahlin, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Compassion International. "We're grateful that Americans responded. But we also hope they realize that even when there are no natural disasters, there are still children in other countries in desperate need."
United Nations' figures indicate that of the 2.2 billion children on the planet, 1 billion live in poverty and 300 million go to bed hungry every night. An estimated 30,000 children die every day because of malnutrition or disease.
One of the most compelling trends in the poll was the generational difference that emerged. Overall, young adults ages 18-21 were most optimistic about the chances of individual Americans having an influence in the world. This group was more likely than were other generations to say that poverty in other countries can be addressed via the effort of individuals in America (50 percent). The percentage falls as the groups get older.
"With the optimism expressed by American young people, we are hopeful that this is the beginning of a nationwide trend," Dahlin said. "Each individual, young or old, really can make a difference in the life of a child overseas."
The survey also reveals that nearly 50 percent of church-goers have not heard a sermon on poverty in the past year. And 30 percent of people did not have an opportunity to serve the poor through their church.
"Caring for the poor is not optional, according to the Bible. Now is the time for churches to come alongside their congregations, share God's mandate for the poor and provide opportunities for people to put their faith in action and serve the poor," said Dahlin.
According to the poll, however, Americans are most likely to say that poor children overseas should be helped by their parents or their government, rather than by individuals in the U.S. Seventy-two percent of the respondents said governments of developing countries should take responsibility for the poor, while 64 percent said parents should be held accountable.
"Many Americans don't realize the dire poverty that families face in developing countries," Dahlin said. "Parents who do everything they can for their children find that, in many cases, it just isn't enough."
Compassion International is one of the nation's largest Christian child development organizations, working with more than 65 denominations and thousands of indigenous church partners in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than a million children and has been recognized for its financial integrity with top ratings and recommendations by several "watchdog" organizations. For information about sponsoring a child, click on the Sponsor a Child link above or call (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., MST.