How can we create safety and stability for children?

Creators of Hope had a super-productive mission experience in January, when we went to Jamaica to build more homes with our dedicated volunteers. This month, as we reflect on that experience and look ahead to future work, we’re taking a closer look at how homelessness affects Jamaica’s most vulnerable population: its children.

As young kids, we learn what it’s like to feel safe and secure. We know when our needs are met, and when they aren’t. We learn whether or not we can trust our environment and feel comfortable in it. Based on how safe we feel in our world, we learn whether or not we can explore, push boundaries, and try new things.

Exploration and trial-and-error is critical in childhood, for us to grow and become healthy adults physically and mentally. But what happens when our earliest needs aren’t met?

The diagram shown here, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, gives us a quick overview of all the elements a person needs in his or her life in order to fully realize potential. We’re talking about what it takes to become your fullest self, living a life in which you use all your abilities to the best of your power.

We can see here that basic physical needs – for food, shelter, rest, and security – form the foundation for all other kinds of physical and mental comfort and growth. Home ownership can feed every tier in the hierarchy. Next week we’ll consider the top three tiers, but for now, let’s look at the bottom two.

Physiological and safety needs. These are those basic, elemental needs that we experience from the beginning of our lives. Young kids need to know there will be food when they’re hungry, a place to sleep when they’re tired, a shelter where they will be safe.

Home provides all of this. Most of us remember, when we were kids, a favorite place that felt like home to us. For a lot of us, it was the actual place where we grew up. In other cases, maybe it was a favorite grandparent’s or best friend’s house. We had that place where we felt secure and where we could relax, be ourselves, and explore our world.
But what about children born into homelessness? When life is always full of uncertainty, kids don’t have the level of comfort and confidence they need to grow into themselves. Imagination and creativity take a back seat to the fight to get from one day to the next.

As a result, these kids don’t get to experience the kind of growth that would let them pull out of the cycle of poverty and struggle they’re born into. Children represent a community’s future, but that future is stifled when essential needs aren’t met.

We at Creators of Hope want to unlock a better future for Jamaica’s children by ending the struggle with homelessness. Help us do that by learning more about our mission, and consider volunteering with us on our next mission trip.