Human Development Index

Human Development Index
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Researchers Probe the Role of Hope in Releasing Children From Poverty

In a research project in Indonesia, children with 24 new crayons before them had creative decisions to make. “Draw a picture of yourself in the rain” was their only directive. Would they reach for bright colors or choose brown and black? More important: Would they draw themselves holding an umbrella, huddling beneath a structure, or exposed to the elements? These crayon artists included children currently sponsored in Compassion’s program, their unsponsored siblings, and unsponsored children who lived nearby.

The psychological tests were among follow-up studies conducted by Dr. Bruce Wydick and his colleagues and grew out of Wydick’s research project outlined in this issue of the magazine. During their two-year study of formerly sponsored children’s adult life outcomes, the researchers grew curious about the psychological factors behind their findings that formerly sponsored children went to school longer and were more likely to have white-collar jobs than their unsponsored peers.

The children’s drawings in the ancillary study amazed the researchers. Compared with the unsponsored children, the sponsored kids were far more likely to draw themselves holding an umbrella and to use bright colors — indicators of self-assurance and optimism. Based on the preliminary findings, “We find that Compassion children are happier,” Wydick says. “We find that they have higher self-esteem and that they are less hopeless. They’re more hopeful than nonsponsored children.”

How children can thrive

The World Policy Analysis Centre has released a new report compiling research on laws and public policies in 191 countries. The report highlights key findings from the book “Children’s Chances: How Countries Can Move From Surviving to Thriving.” It covers topics essential to children’s healthy development, including access to quality education, protection from child labor and early marriage, and good health care.

Authors of the report note that children living in poverty are less likely to attend school and more likely to work long hours in full-time jobs. And even children who do attend school face greater challenges because of their multiple responsibilities and financial constraints. Access to decent jobs and decent wages are the most likely way for working adults and their children to rise above poverty.

Children lead improvements in Kolkata's poorest neighborhoods

Sewage and trash often fill neighborhoods of crowded shanties in Kolkata, India and children have no safe places to play. But hundreds of children are leading efforts to change their communities for the better. Amlan Kusum Ganguly, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, is helping equip them.

In 1996 Ganguly started Prayasam, a nonprofit organization committed to improving living conditions in Kolkata. Ganguly began by approaching community leaders and adults in the community, but most were not interested in helping with community improvements. About to give up, he was surprised to see what happened next.

The children in the community wanted to work with him. Today, Ganguly works with more than 600 children. Even children as young as 5 are helping improve their communities.

One of the group’s initial successes was getting rid of a garbage dump next to children’s homes. The stench from the dump was almost unbearable and contaminated the open spaces where the children could play.

So the children asked leaders in the community for help. The leaders were not interested in helping them, so the children took another approach.

The children worked to raise awareness and support — and garnered media attention. As local papers reported on the children’s efforts, community leaders finally decided to act. Leaders removed the dump, and a playground was put in its place.

A brighter future for children as middle class rises in developing world

A United Nations Human Development Report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” examines changing global dynamics as many countries in the developing world are set to significantly increase their numbers of middle-class citizens.

While China, India and Brazil have come into focus as economic powerhouses in recent years, “The Rise of the South” highlights other countries rising in prosperity, such as Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa and Indonesia. The report identifies more than 40 countries in the developing world where progress has markedly and unexpectedly accelerated over the past 10 years.

The number of middle-class people living in developing nations more than doubled between 1990 and 2010 and is expected to rise to more than 80 percent of the globe’s total by 2030. By 2030, countries in the developing world will make up 70 percent of total consumer spending. In addition, by the end of this decade, the economies in Brazil, India and China will outstrip those in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Italy combined.

These findings suggest that new business opportunities will be available in the developing world. But the poorest members of society will not have the skills to work in new fields without organizations like Compassion helping equip them. In part, they need educational opportunities and training as children so they can move into these jobs as adults.