Invisible No More

Holy Family SilhouetteThe New York Times is running a powerful four-part series called “Invisible Child.”

It offers an in-depth profile of Dasani, a middle school girl who lives in a Brooklyn family shelter. Dasani’s story is just one portrait of the over 22,000 homeless children in New York City and tens-of-thousands of others growing up across the United States with big dreams but far too little emotional and material support.

Poverty is an enormously complex issue and, sadly, it’s not getting any better. According to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University:

  • Children represent 24 percent of the population, but 34 percent of all people in poverty.
  • Among all children under 18, 45 percent live in low-income families; and approximately one in every five live in poor families. 

It is poverty that makes Dasani invisible. She’s the girl we pass on the street but never suspect is terribly hungry. The girl who tries to keep where she lives a secret from her classmates: a single 520 square foot room with nine other people, mice, and roaches. The girl with a sharp mind and sometimes a short temper.

But school is one of the bright spots for Dasani. School is a refuge, albeit one that she struggles to manage. Her teachers and principal work hard to support her throughout all of her ups and downs.

There are public and private schools across the country like Dasani’s that remain refuges for children who, through no fault of their own, continue to bear the burdens of a poverty that they did not create. Schools staffed by committed teachers and school leaders. Schools that, like their students, often remain invisible as well.

The Episcopal Urban School Alliance is one such group of schools. Scattered across the United States, these schools were and continue to be founded by visionary Episcopal educators and clergy moved to meet a pressing educational need by working with under-served, low-income children and families.

Thanks to the generous support of the Good Samaritan Foundations, NAES recently partnered with the Episcopal Church Media Center to develop four short films that highlight the important work of Alliance schools. Take a few minutes to watch, listen, and learn about their work. Consider a partnership with a school near you. Ask how your school, parish or diocese can get involved.

It will take the collective will of all Americans turn the tide on systemic poverty. It is easy to look away. Or we can choose to keep our eyes open so that young people like Dasani are no longer invisible but fully known, not a statistic but a person, not someone else’s child but our child.