SEATTLE, Wash. – Many know what aid is and it helps, or at the very least, they see the numbers and read the headlines that highlight the benefits of aid. However, when do donors and advocates for charities, nonprofits, and international organizations really hear directly from the people who have actually received help through aid programs? Here is some information on what international aid really means for someone living in poverty.
About Ashley Baker
Ashley Baker is an international aid recipient. In an interview with The Borgen Project, he explained how he started his life as a poor orphan in Jamaica and later became an aspiring politician and entrepreneur pursuing his masters degree in Paris, all at the age of 23. .
Baker was always aware of his situation. He knew he was poor. He knew he had no family and he was aware that he was ultimately alone – a harsh reality for a 5 year old lying in a hospital bed after being abused by his in-laws and becoming a ward of State.
Although he remembers being less fortunate from a young age, it wasn’t until Baker lived in foster homes for over a year that he realized he was truly living in poverty. .
“When I was in those houses, there were clear differences because the houses (which) have other children, and when you go to church or the store and see other children well dressed or eating at the restaurant, this has become noticeable, ”said Baker. The Borgen project. “We not only had to cope with hunger and not having three meals a day, but also with behavioral problems – also because of the environment in which we grew up – abuses that we suffered and the community in which we were to stay at that time. . “
Entering an orphanage
Baker moved into his first orphanage, Blossom Garden, at the age of 6, and quickly bounced around two more: New Beginning Training Center and Mount Olivet. No matter where he was, poverty and hunger affected his life and the lives of the other children around him.
Three meals a day was not always guaranteed, Baker said. Sometimes orphanages had farms where children could work, which ultimately provided food. But with orphanages housing up to 120 children, often these small personal farms did not provide enough.
When it came to going to school, Baker and other orphans could learn for free in public institutions, but economic challenges often made actual attendance difficult. Often they had just enough money to take the bus to school and back. However, items like clothing, books, computers, and nutrition were not consistently available.
“The currency in Jamaica is really bad, so we would get around $ 500 (Jamaicans) to go to school, and it was the good days,” Baker said. “The price of the bus alone would cost $ 100 or $ 150 for a one-way ticket. “
Many orphans could not receive a guaranteed education. Many orphanages would not let children leave, whether for school or play. Those who attend school, finish primary school and then continue on to high school are often considered the luckiest, as many orphanages simply cannot afford to send their children to school.
Child poverty in Jamaica
Like Baker, this harsh reality of foster homes, abuse and poverty is all too real for many children in Jamaica. According to UNICEF, 25% of Jamaican children live below the poverty line, more than any other group in the country.
As a result, many children do not do well in school and need help through government programs. Yet less than half of those who need help get it.
Baker was lucky. He moved to his last orphanage, Mount Olivet, at the age of 8. The American nonprofit Food for the Poor was helping Mount Olivet financially, ensuring that Baker could eat three meals on most days.
“Some days you wouldn’t have food when you have 60 guys living in a resort,” Baker said. “These meals were breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Food for the poor
Food for the Poor first emerged in 1982 as a way to distribute food, medical and educational supplies to poor regions of the world, primarily the Caribbean. The group claims it is Jamaica’s largest charity, shipping more than 480 containers of aid supplies while building or repairing 11 schools and 360 homes in 2020 alone.
In addition to Food for the Poor, international organizations such as UNICEF provide social protection and educational programs for children in Jamaica. The United States Agency for International Development has been the primary support and contributor to Jamaica’s development, while the country’s “Vision 2030 Jamaica” is a national development plan designed to help lift people out of poverty. while developing a vast development to create a better living environment throughout the country.
With the help of nonprofits and the way government development agencies like USAID are providing aid to Jamaican children, it looks like progress could happen fairly quickly. However, many people living in poverty are unable to meet their minimum needs, relying instead on other sources of assistance such as charities and sponsorships.
“A lot of these opportunities came from the church that sponsored our orphanage, from families who would come to visit the orphanage and provide clothing, and from groups who would come to help us – mainly from the United States,” Baker said. “The opportunities that these groups brought to the orphanages were really great and meant so much. “
The YB Afraid Foundation
Programs, organizations and charities like these have all helped Baker get a fair chance in life and rise out of poverty. During his high school years, runway star and Jamaican Yohan Blake established the YB Afraid Foundation, which then partnered with designer watch retailer Richard Mille. One of the orphanages to benefit from this partnership was Mount Olivet.
Ashely Baker’s life moves forward
When Baker turned 18, he enrolled in a sponsorship program on the condition that he graduated from high school. Baker is now studying in a masters program in France, with the intention of eventually returning to Jamaica where he can give back to other children growing up in situations similar to what he did.
Baker’s story shows that no matter where aid or international assistance comes from, it can help those in need. While the results may not be immediately visible, their impact on people living in poverty is invaluable. It not only provides the basic necessities for life, but also gives people the opportunity to rise above their current situation.
– Ali Benzerara