Helping Poverty-Stricken Children Go Back to School

<b>Helping Poverty-Stricken Children Go Back to School</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For many children, the start of fall means new backpacks and shoes and the excitement of starting another school year. But for children living in Appalachia, a 205,000-square-mile region that stretches from southern New York to northern Mississippi, another reality is faced.

As the tough economy strains middle-class families, America’s poorest poor go unnoticed. But those citizens who faced extreme poverty when the economy was strong face especial hardship now. In Appalachia, where about 23.6 million people reside, many families live without health insurance or access to medical care, indoor plumbing or heating and adequate food.

For decades, charities have helped Appalachian children experience the simple joys that most kids take for granted. For example, Americans Helping Americans (AHA), an affiliate of Christian Relief Services, started its Bare Feet program in Kentucky. The program allows schoolchildren to go to a store and choose new shoes for school, a luxury their families cannot afford. Last year, over 1,212 children enjoyed safer, warmer walks to school thanks to AHA’s efforts.

In some areas of Appalachia, as few as 49 percent of incoming ninth-graders graduate from high school, and teenage pregnancy rates peak at 69 percent. AHA works to provide safe, positive places for teenagers to hang out after school. In Harlan, Ky., AHA donated $1,000 worth of sports equipment to make a recreation area for 400 Appalachian teens.

AHA also helps teens acquire basic school necessities through donated backpacks filled with pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, scissors, glue, paper, erasers and notebooks, not to mention food, winter clothing and hygiene items. But without donations, AHA will have to cut back or suspend its programs, leaving children without shoes, school supplies and after-school activities. AHA allows for non-cash donations, too.

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