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Around our house, we have a recurring statement, “97 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.” Okay, maybe 95 percent. We joke about it, because I’m a devotee of data and research.

Recently, I read some curious statistics published by World Factbook. The current poverty level in the U.S. is 15.1 % of the population; India’s poverty rate is 29.8 %. Some might read this and think, “Oh, things are only twice as bad in India.”  Not exactly.

Of course, it’s not my intention to minimize anyone’s hardships. Yes, there is significant suffering in the United States. Millions of children go to bed hungry. In fact, in my state of Tennessee, 1 out of 4 children have hunger struggles.

We like to support Second Harvest Food of middle Tennessee, from whom we learned that statistic. They are able to use every $1 to provide four complete meals for a hungry adult or child. I can’t even get a jar of peanut butter for $1.

Still, I feel compelled to elaborate on the level of poverty in countries like India. Why? Most of us don’t have a framework of understanding. How can you comprehend something you haven’t experienced it unless someone explains it? The majority of Americans will never visit an impoverished country, except Mexico. The majority of those visitors to Mexico remain isolated in tourist resorts, never coming in close contact with the deplorable living conditions.

So what does someone in a less developed country experience? Simply as a point of reference, I will use my life as a comparison. For a few years after my parents’ divorce, I lived “under the U.S. poverty level.” My mother had not worked for a decade and had difficulty finding work. When she finally found employment, her job had the lowest wage possible.

Our home was far from fancy, but I had a roof over my head that could withstand the forces of nature.

An impoverished child in India may live in the bastis, a cluster of makeshift dwellings, completely vulnerable to weather. Many live on the streets.

We had running water. It was sanitary.

An impoverished child in India may need to travel up to 3 miles to collect water. That polluted water causes chronic diarrhea and serious illnesses. It is a major cause of death.

We had one small bathroom with a bath and toilet.

An impoverished child in India has no bath, no toilet, no sanitary facilities. That, too, is a source of diseases.

I attended school.

An impoverished child in India cannot go to school. She has to work, often dangerous jobs, to survive. She may be sold into slavery.

I can’t remember seeing a dentist during those years. But I had access to health care and vaccines.

An impoverished child receives no vaccines. She may die from an easily preventable disease.

Our food was simple. Unlike many American children, I never went hungry (though I’m pretty certain my mother did, not eating so that I could.)

An impoverished child in India suffers from malnutrition, often going days without food.

Because we lacked money for clothes, my mother sometimes made mine. I thought they were awful.

An impoverished child in India may wear worn-out garments.

My family had hope for advancement. Eventually, my mom went back to studies part-time, earning along the way an AA, BA, MA, and finally a PhD!

An impoverished child in India has no hope.

When a child in India receives a sponsor though Compassion International, hope begins.

All Compassion-sponsored children have the opportunity to develop their God-given potential and be released from the poverty that has trapped their families for generations.

After completing an in-depth study, researchers from the University of San Francisco have concluded that Compassion’s program has large and statistically significant impacts on the educational, employment, and leadership outcomes of our children. To learn the details, visit Hope in Compassion child sponsorship

Bring HOPE today to children in India or one of the 26 countries where Compassion serves. Visit Sponsor a Child. Together, we can change statistics, bringing hope to one child at a time.