Every year, the United Nations marks the importance of human rights and equality with World Day of Social Justice. Being observed today, February 20, the 2020 theme is “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice.” According to the UN, social justice advances “when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”
Kelvin, age 18, and his family live near Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in a small community near the polluted banks of the Haina River. Many of the homes in the area are made of cardboard, the streets are not paved and community members have access to electricity only a few times a week.
When Kelvin was younger, the community’s living conditions and a lack of food in the area contributed to him becoming malnourished. To earn money and support his family, Kelvin began working on the streets full time as a shoe shiner.
La Merced Foundation met Kelvin and began supporting him, which enabled him to transform his life. Kelvin and his brothers were placed in the child and development center, and his family began receiving Rise Against Hunger meals through partner CitiHope International, becoming one of about 200 local families to receive the proper nutrients for their everyday diets through the meals.
Originally, the food was the main reason Kelvin’s parents wanted their children to go to the foundation’s child and youth development center. But Kelvin has also returned to school, and he and his brothers now have a place to study, complete homework and receive tutoring.
Kelvin is healthier and recognizes that the foundation not only helped him, but also his entire family. “After eating the meals, we feel more energy,” Kelvin said. “I am able to keep learning things that are helping me. I just completed computer, basic English and literature courses with the foundation.” Today, Kelvin and his mother are in vocational training programs, while his other siblings are in the child development and artistic programs.
The vocational training and education Kelvin is receiving is important for his future and as a step for removing barriers that interfere with equality. This year’s World Day of Social Justice theme of “Closing the Inequalities Gap” calls attention to the impact employment can have on equality. According to the International Labour Organization, over 212 million people were unemployed in 2019. But education can be a building block to decreasing that number. The United Nations notes that education both directly and indirectly impacts economic growth and poverty. Education “provides skills that boost employment opportunities and incomes while helping to protect from socio-economic vulnerabilities” and, therefore, education is “likely to reduce inequality, lifting the poorest from the bottom of the ladder.”
Kelvin and his family are proud of the education they are receiving and proud to serve as an inspiration for other residents. As Kelvin continues his education, we’re excited about what the future has in store for him!