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  • Maritza (Mitzy) Pardo M.A, B.C.B.A

The Local Mission Against Childhood Poverty

Updated: May 25, 2020

Several years ago in my twenties, I volunteered for a mission trip to

Zimbabwe. The goal was to expand my horizon to other cultures and people

in need. Our team was charged with bringing essentials to this African

community and participate as camp counselors (Lasting Impressions) for a

low-income day camp for children. Having researched the culture and

economy with my team, I expected to see children with the bare minimum.

However, upon introduction my heart was instantly humbled by the hospitality

so freely given to us and, dare I say, the joy found even amid poverty. These

families made the best of their circumstances and did all they could to provide

a positive outlook for their children, despite the lack of resources. I came

home with a new sense of gratitude for my own living conditions, but still had

a sense of naivety of the far-reaching effects of child poverty in our own local

communities. In November 2018, the Los Angeles Times published a four-part

series on local child poverty ("Facing Child Poverty in L.A.") with some

astonishing facts, highlighting two schools – Telfair Elementary and Virgil

Middle school – with the most children classified as homeless in Los Angeles

(i.e. children and their families living in a car or converted garage). To think of

how many children fit the definition of "homeless," even in the rural areas of

California, is incomprehensible. Now many people, including myself, have had mixed feelings why families continue to extend their family numbers when

they lack the financial means to support them. Reporter Steve Lopez did an

incredible job addressing all aspects of the "Why." Judgements as to the

“who” or “why” this occurs ultimately will not help the true victims – the

children. For these children concentrating on academics is secondary to being

fed and clothed each day. Our public schools and communities have now

been put in the role of local “missionaries” to help provide the essentials so

that children can go to school and focus on academic achievement. Our

children are told and encouraged to dream big, go to school, learn and make

their dreams a reality. Instead students have become dependent on school for

meals, and at times clothing and basic medical attention. It is clear the

opportunities of homeless children/students are limited by their circumstances

and rest in the hands of the goodwill of our community. The effects of

homelessness and poverty may not always be spotlighted, but for the sake of

the children who are told to dream big, it should become the mission of

everyone to help these children rise above their circumstances. I have since

learned I do not have to travel to a third-world country to deliver essentials

and positivity to children. The problem is local and we as Angelenos can

assist by supporting our public-school personnel (e.g. teachers, social

workers, Head Start providers), particularly at Telfair Elementary and Virgil

Middle School.



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