The early years of life are vital for physical, mental, social and emotional development. What happens in those first years lays the foundation for a child and plays an unmistakable role in breaking the cycle of poverty. Compassion takes those first three years very seriously as we work to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.
Brain development begins before a child is even born. At birth, a baby already has 100 billion brain cells. Not having access to prenatal care can have long-term effects on a child’s sense of touch, hearing and sight.
Prenatal care is a crucial part of Compassion’s Child Survival Program. Mothers in poverty often work long hours doing back-breaking work, so Compassion must teach expectant mothers the dangers of strenuous activity and the need for proper nutrition and rest. CSP moms learn to recognize the symptoms of preeclampsia and other labor complications. In the past year, 2,915 Compassion-assisted mothers have had a trained birth attendant at birth, giving their babies a healthy start in life.
Bonding experiences must be present for a baby’s brain to develop normally. Young children who do not form an attachment with at least one trusted adult often struggle socially as they grow older. These same children often have learning delays and have difficulty expressing their emotions. Studies have even shown that children who never form bonds with a caregiver are at higher risk for substance abuse and depression.
Compassion teaches parents that the most serious damage to a baby’s health may start from not having enough love and attention. During visits to the homes of Compassion-assisted families, parents learn that skin-to-skin touch and speaking in a quiet voice can help a child feel secure and loved from birth.
Twenty-two percent of children worldwide will be affected by anxiety in their lifetime — those numbers are even higher among children in poverty. Children living in poverty experience much less predictability and security in their environments, which often leads to emotional struggles. A group of girls attending a Compassion project in North Bengal preserve their cultural heritage through traditional dance and dress of their native Nepal. Located in a triangle region of northern India bordering Nepal and Bhutan, many of the people are of blended ethnic groups and are often maligned by other ethnicities.
Compassion educates families on separation anxiety — and how to make sure this normal affliction for toddlers does not have a long-lasting negative impact. Mothers who have traditionally left their children alone for long stretches learn how important it is to provide stability and comfort.
In many families plagued by poverty, fathers work long hours, often far from home, to try to provide a home and food. Parenting is a lonely, overwhelming job for the mothers left behind. These feelings can lead to abuse and neglect or even abandonment.
Compassion provides a partner for caregivers. Specifically in the Child Survival Program, caregivers are visited in their homes. They feel known and supported. Studies have shown home-based programs like CSP have tremendous long-term impact on children. When these babies grow into adolescence, they have lower drop-out rates, higher scores in reading and school achievement, higher performance in IQ and memory tests, and significantly fewer behavior problems. In short, partnering with parents in poverty changes the future for children in poverty.