Many call it persistent poverty due to Appalachia’s rugged topography that in many cases puts the communities at a disadvantage because of transportation and infrastructure problems, while others blame it on politics and uneven economic development.
Regardless of the reason, the fact still remains that over 25 million people residing in the Appalachian regions face the same challenges every day: rural poverty due to the area’s isolation from urban growth, inadequate jobs, services, transportation, underdeveloped educational systems, and poor infrastructure.
Before the 19th century, the Appalachian counties have once prided themselves with its economic self-sufficiency. They have a unique and close connection to their home that despite the prevailing economic and social depression, people are held back from leaving the region and finding better opportunities elsewhere.
Political corruption, disenfranchisement, racial divisions and changes in the economic landscape of its neighbors in the early 1900s eventually took its toll widening the gap between the poor and those in power. It was only until the 1960s that the US government took notice and decided to improve the living standards of the Appalachians.
However, despite the financial aid and food stamps coming from the government, the region remains one of the poorest in the US where the few young people who are able to graduate from High School have little to zero opportunities for a better future.
The Appalachian communities are among the beneficiaries of the Children’s Joy Foundation USA that aims to implement programs in the region that will help them overcome poverty.
CJF USA visited the small town of Zoe in Lee County, Kentucky —one of the Appalachian counties listed as one of the poorest counties in the United States — for the first time last June 2018 to provide assistance to the underprivileged children and their families.
The beneficiaries are one of the most underprivileged Appalachian communities where families are living way below the poverty line in the “hollows” of the valleys of Kentucky.
Finishing high school in this far-flung region is very hard to achieve. Looking for a job is even more so. Majority of the families depend on the food stamps distributed by the government which they can use to exchange for food in selected stores, but in order to do so, they need to travel a long way.
As the children and guardians arrived, they were awed to find a variety of food booths such as candy booth, popcorn, cotton candy, pizza, chocolates, and cakes. Gifts specially prepared for the children also lined up waiting to be unwrapped.
The program was started with a prayer led by one of the Appalachian Ministries staff followed by the opening remarks given by Ms. Lisa Lacy Helterbrand, the Appalachian Ministries Director.
During the program, the participants acknowledged the humanitarian works of CJF USA’s founder, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy.
Laughter and smiles filled the children’s faces as they enjoyed the well-prepared meal and excitedly received their gifts.
Ms. Helterbrand gave her word of thanks to CJF USA saying, “I can recall that one of the kids said that we’ve never had a party like this before! There are pizzas, cotton candies, popcorns, and others. It also helped them in a cross-cultural way. We appreciate it very much! Thank you!”