Imagine... you are at a New Orleans’ Saints football game. You look around and see tens of thousands of fans, just like you, cheering in excitement. You are feeling good about yourself and your place in the world. Now, instead, picture the stadium filled with children. And these children aren’t whooping and hollering in excitement, but are somber and silent. You look into their eyes and see nothing but sadness, tears, hunger, and hopelessness. In fact, there are enough children in Louisiana living in poverty to fill seven whole football stadiums. What’s more, in the United States of America, you could fill 500 stadiums holding 30 million children. That’s how many children are living in poverty in the United States today. These children don’t see the world the same as those who are more fortunate than they are. They don’t see the same opportunities for themselves that many other Americans see. When they pray and raise their hands to the Lord, imagine them saying, “Lord, Please send someone to help me, please Lord send someone now.”

      Our foundation is answering this plea for help. Our society has built in traps and triggers that keep people in a cycle of poverty. Our nation has spent $20 trillion worth over the last 50 years, and we’ve only changed the poverty percentage by 1%. Our government isn’t doing anything to affect change. Just like in hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, the government couldn’t rescue all the people who needed help. It was citizens helping other citizens that prevented the tremendous loss of life. Each one of us needs to answer the call within ourselves.  Ask yourself, “What can I do with all the blessings that this great nation has given me to help restore the hopes and dreams in the hearts of children?”

      The cycle of poverty starts in the home. It starts with these children not being taught their ABC’s, or their colors, or how to tie their shoes, or even experience the love and nourishment they need. The statistics are that 64% of all the children living in poverty are unprepared for 1st grade. The latest research shows that the grey matter in their brains is not as developed as their peers that aren’t in poverty. By age three, they've missed 30 million words. They start the 1st grade behind and gradually go downhill from there, making lower and lower test scores. By 4th grade, they only have a 2nd grade capacity of knowledge. When they go to take the leap test, they’ve lost faith and belief in themselves. Carol Dweck, noted Stanford psychologist, wrote a book called Mindsets. In this book, she further elaborates on the subject. At this point in their lives, children form a fixed mindset of failure. They don’t believe they are capable or worthy of success or love. By 10th grade one in four students will drop out of high school. With no one to help them, they simply give up. They find love with others like them that feel hopeless, and end up creating more and more children, further perpetuating the cycle.

      The Dream Team initiative is here to help these children have dreams again. Our strategy is to put together teams of people willing to help break the chains that hold our fellow Americans in poverty. Our approach is to start where the cycle begins, in the home with the mother and other caregivers. We will provide educational resources to make the mother successful, and help her with tools and education needed to prepare her child for 1st grade. We will also provide each mother with support, consisting of one sponsor and a team of one to ten people. This team will introduce them to a whole new social network to make sure that they have the emotional support to break free from a culture that believes in entitlements rather than education and personal responsibility. This is one of the toughest battles because even to this day, we act tribal and people tend to be controlled by the collective. Thus, when you give up one cultural behavior for another, you’re shunned, emotionally abandoned, and will be made to feel as if you were the one who is doing the betraying.

     Just like the disaster relief of Katrina and Harvey, for any one person to help everyone in need is impossible, but if we all pitch in and help a little, it makes a tremendous difference. When you say your prayers and dream of the things that you want out of life, think about all the children bowing their heads in prayer and asking our Lord to send someone to help them. Please, find it in your heart to help make a difference for these children who have no other chance. Help them out of hopelessness and to be prepared for school, so they aren’t set up for failure like so many before them. We’d love to hear from you and find a place for you in this initiative. Your perspective, your imagination, your ingenuity, and your experiences can help create a new social network to bring our children out of poverty.

Choose to get involved.

John Toups  

Founder and President of The Dream Team  

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Every $1 invested in early childhood education yields a return to society of more than $16."

Agenda for Children