What does a 2020 Christmas look like for children in low-income countries?
Christmas certainly looks different for most of the world this Christmas. With friends and family members in lockdown zones, face-to-face celebrations may be especially difficult. And for families around the globe who live in extreme poverty, celebrations will certainly look much different.
Not only will many children in low-income countries not be able to experience the joy of opening their very own brightly wrapped gift on Christmas morning, but simple luxuries like food are out of reach for many. The rubble that the pandemic has left through job loss, loss of income and even loss of loved ones has left many, especially those in poverty, without hope as the calendar reaches the 25th.
To better understand the position many children and families living in poverty are in this final month of 2020, let’s zoom in on some of the most potent realities that many have faced this year.
A snapshot of 2020’s impact on families in poverty
In 2020, we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic…
- Cause 10,000 more child deaths a month,
- Increase global poverty for the first time since 1998,
- Severely heighten the risk of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking for children in low-income communities,
- Force more than 1 billion children out of school, stalling progress in education, as well as depriving their access to school meal programs,
- And so much more that has gone unreported.
It’s not hard to see the utter devastation that COVID-19 has caused for those living in extreme poverty. But amid all of this, our hope is not absent.
As an organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, we have so much reason to keep working, hoping and believing the best for those we serve because of the commitment to restoration we’ve seen in our supporters, global staff and local church partners.
Here are just a few reasons why we hold onto hope, even after a year like 2020.
Since the global shutdown, Compassion Canada, along with its international partners and our local church partners, has provided urgent relief to communities most impacted by the pandemic. We’ve walked alongside, wept with and stood behind those included in the statistics above. Together*, we have:
- Delivered more than 7.1 million food packs to provide for the immediate needs of those on the brink of malnutrition,
- Given over 4.6 million hygiene kits to those who are not otherwise able to access the supplies needed to protect against COVID-19,
- Assisted more than 438,000 individuals to access medical care,
- Delivered more than 254,000 cash transfers to families in need, especially those who have lost work because of the pandemic.
We also provided ongoing, long-term support for families in our care — families we have known before the pandemic and will be journeying with well after the pandemic is over. Though Compassion is not able to deliver our program to sponsored children as we would in normal times, it doesn’t mean that sponsorship has stopped.
Sponsorship during COVID-19 has enabled us to meet the very real and urgent needs of children and their families. But it also has helped enable our local partners to continue their long-term development strategy, delivering programming like income-generating workshops, providing biblical encouragement, tutoring, administering trauma counselling and so much more.
So, while the delivery model for sponsorship has been disrupted, we’re finding every possible way to ensure continuity of connection and the health and safety of each sponsored child and their family through and beyond the pandemic.
And it’s all thanks to our not-so-secret best strategy…
The Church. Yes, the Church. Compassion works exclusively with local churches who are right in the neighbourhoods and communities where we work.
We partner and work with local churches because they can best understand and respond to the contextual challenges in their communities. They are known and trusted by their neighbours and are able to reach those in the greatest need.
We also believe that the Church is the institution God empowered to carry out His work of mercy, justice and compassion. We long to enable the Church to fulfill its mission of being light and hope for those in great need. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen happening through our more than 8,000 church partners around the world for over 65 years.
So, in light of this, what does Christmas look like for children in poverty in our care this year?
It looks like doing everything we can to ensure each child feels loved and seen this Christmas. It looks like bringing Christmas to them — food, encouragement, practical needs and brightly wrapped gifts to each one, whatever it takes. Like the staff at our Compassion centre in Cha Grande, Brazil.
Normally, Compassion’s partner churches plan Christmas celebrations in their communities to bring children and their families together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But, of course, it’s 2020, and the end of the year has not brought an end to the pandemic.
Because of COVID-19, Compassion centres including Despertando Corações Child Development Centre in Cha Grande, Brazil needed to change their Christmas plans. Since it won’t be possible to gather all the children and their families in the town square as they normally do, the centre plans to host an online concert for the families and friends of the centre.
They’ve also been working hard to prepare Christmas dinner kits and gifts for children and their families, delivering them to each of their homes. To make the deliveries even more exciting for the kids, volunteers have decorated their motorcycles with green and red ornaments and balloons!
“Despite the limitations of the pandemic, we want children and their families to be able to enjoy the beauty of Christmas and celebrate this moment at home safely. The year was very hard for everyone, but we want to show that neither Jesus nor we forget about them,” says Alessandra, the Compassion centre director.
And for children like Hérogo, their efforts have certainly paid off.
“Christmas in the centre is always very cool. It has toys, delicious food and a lot of cool games. But this year we need to stay at home because of the pandemic. It’s a little sad, but I got very happy when the centre volunteer came to my house to leave me a gift and a Christmas kit,” he says.
Along with the delivery of food and gifts, the centre also held a workshop to teach the children’s mothers to how to make a simple and delicious Christmas dinner in their homes. At the end of the training, mothers received the materials and ingredients to repeat the recipes at home and celebrate with their families. They also learned to share a Christmas devotional with their families, recalling God’s blessings.
This is what our passion for enabling children to feel known, loved and protected looks like in a pandemic, and in times of celebration. No matter what this new year brings, we will continue to walk alongside and empower the children and families in our care. We are in this for the long haul.
*numbers as of October 23, 2020
Laura Phillips works for Compassion Canada, telling stories that inform and inspire Canadians towards compassionate action for children living in poverty around the world.
Photos by Ben Adams (Kenya), Sara Navarro (Brazil), Nico Benalcazar (Ecuador) and Jehojakim Sangare (Burkina Faso).