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Poverty is a leading cause of family separation and placement of children in orphanages, and can also prevent families from being able to take in children in need. Families need basic financial resources in order to send their children to school and provide them with adequate food, clothing, medical care, and shelter.

Churches and community and faith-based groups can help families and caregivers living in poverty create income-generating activities to earn livelihoods. Some of the most successful programs are locally run with support from non-governmental or professional organizations specializing in microfinance. These programs provide caregivers with the skills and the start-up capital to engage in livelihoods that will help feed, clothe, and pay the school fees for the children in their care.

All require some level of technical expertise and adherence to better practice in order to be successful.

  • Microloans Small loans provided to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. Microloans provide start-up capital for individuals to buy the goods, tools, or resources needed to start small businesses and income-generating activities.
  • Income-generating activities Form of livelihood strengthening, frequently funded by microloans or external partners that provide those living in poverty with an opportunity to develop a skill or product to be sold or offered as a form of livelihood. Examples include small-scale farming, bead making, and soap making.
  • Saving and credit organizations An organization of people who would otherwise not have access to formal financial institutions who join together in order to save and borrow informally among each other. Saving and credit organizations within local communities are generally based on systems of transparency and simplicity that are well adapted to communities with low levels of literacy and less formal systems for protecting property rights.

Livelihood and loan programs are key strategies to help families provide for children. However, in emergency situations, in cases of extreme poverty, and for those who are too old or too ill to work, more direct assistance is often needed.

The local church (often in partnership with others) and community organizations can play an important role in distributing needed material resources such as food, blankets, and clothing to families. Congregations, youth and community members can be mobilized by the church to help build or repair homes and to work in community gardens. Other strategies to help families provide for children include the provision of agricultural supplies such as seeds, tools, and livestock and cash transfer programs.

To see this strategy in action, read the story of Bright Hope, Willow Creek and Samfya in Journeys of Faith pp. 40-44.