A Path Appears: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins
The second installment of “A Path Appears” focused on cycles of poverty in West Virginia, Haiti, and Colombia. The episode started out in Appalachia West Virginia, where Jennifer Garner served Nicholas Kristof’s tour guide in her home state. They meet poor women who are struggling to provide for their children, because of the burdens preventing people from overcoming poverty. WIC, a program for poor mothers does not cover many expensive purchases, such as diapers. Young mothers are often struggling to afford the necessities while also coming to terms with their inability to get hired. The insecurities and vulnerabilities they face as high school dropouts becomes a seemingly insurmountable wall to overcome.
Next, Kristof travels to Port-au-Prince Haiti with Alfre Woodard. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere with a history of messy aid including, short term projects that never created solutions. In such a poor country, families are left with few options when they have too many mouths to feed. Many children end up in the Restavek system (comes from French words that mean stay with). Families in rural areas with too many children will send small children, usually daughters, to live with someone in the city and essentially work as a slave. The Restavek Freedom Foundation was created in order to rescue children out of those situations. Kristof and Woodard followed the process of one girl being successfully removed from her abusive Restavek family. In an effort to move away from the Restavek system, the importance of education is continuously stressed as the main mechanism for a better life.
Kristof’s final stop is in Cartegena, Colombia, where he travels with Eva Longoria where teenage pregnancy appears to be an inescapable issue. The area is plagued by poor sanitation, which cause respiratory problems. Ill health and unplanned pregnancies are two factors that prevent growth within the population. Many girls drop out of school because of the high teen pregnancy rates. Kristof and Longoria learn about Colombia’s teen pregnancy problems from a woman named Catalina. Founder of the Fundación Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar (Juanfe), Catalina mourned her own loss of a child by creating a center that helps pregnant teen women and those who have already had children. The center focuses on education for the reduction of infant mortality, it trains the teen mothers to earn their own income in a short period of time, and teaches them the tools to keep away from the many gangs and violence, which are high in the area.
This episode leaves the viewer with a some closing thoughts. Poverty and education is a zero-sum game; if you don’t invest in the front-end then you must invest in the back-end. More money should be focused on programs for poor parents, so that their children can begin life closer to the starting gate. When education and other life programs are not invested in, more money ends up funneled into prison and other programs that deal with high school dropouts.
“The road to overcome poverty is partly about something as non-numerical as hope”- Nicholas Kristof
Don’t miss the final episode of A Path Appears, airing at 10pm on PBS Monday, February 9.
Watch the first two episodes online until February 14.