Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Poverty and Human Rights
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners will define poverty by listing its characteristics and effects. They will identify organizations which serve those who are in poverty. They will analyze the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and determine whether poverty is a violation of the document’s principles.


Two Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • identify and describe characteristics of poverty and causes of impoverishment.

  • identify nonprofit organizations that seek to alleviate the consequences of poverty.

  • illustrate the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as related to poverty.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

The learners will create posters illustrating Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are violated through poverty and will inform the student body of the problem through an article in the school newspaper.


  • Poverty Statistics (Attachment One), for teacher use

  • Learner copies of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Attachment Two)

  • 8-1/2” x 11” unlined paper

Handout 1
Poverty Statistics
Handout 2
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

A dictionary definition of “poverty” might be “the state of one with insufficient resources.” Ask the learners to come up with their own definitions of the term. Write their collective ideas on the board and have them draw connections and note similarities.

  • Using Poverty Statistics (Attachment One), describe for the learners some recent statistics on poverty in the United States.

  • Give learners two to three minutes to work with a partner to come up with a list of identifiable characteristics that might identify poverty. Call on several teams to report on the characteristics they identified. List them on the board.

  • With their same partners, have students discuss their understanding of what events cause people to become impoverished. Write their answers on the board and guide them by asking open-ended questions. They should indicate things like: family history, lack of education, job loss, discrimination, number of people in the family, state of the economy, whether there are individuals with disabilities and/or mental illness in the family, whether there are addicted behaviors in the family, etc.

  • Ask students if their list is something that is true only for contemporary society or if it is also true historically. This will point out the ubiquitous nature of poverty. Let the learners come up with examples of poverty impacting societies throughout history (wars, famine, disease, natural disasters, etc.).

  • As a by-product of the terrible breadth of poverty’s effect on the lives of people, have the learners work with their partners and come up with a list of organizations that work with and aid impoverished and homeless people. Call on several teams to identify the organizations they’ve found. Ask if those organizations are non-profit or for profit. Help the students differentiate between them by defining “non-profit” organizations as “any not-for-profit or tax-exempt organizations that are specifically not associated with any government, government agency, or commercial enterprise and whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company.”

  • Distribute copies of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Attachment Two). Go over the information on the first page, giving background on the beginning of the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration. Have students choose four areas that they find to be important. Have them work in pairs and share what they found important and interesting. Have a spokesperson share from each group what stood out to them and why. Have the learners describe how poverty and the Universal Declaration are connected.

  • Distribute paper and have each team select one Article from the Declaration that they can illustrate as a teaching device to others. (Note: Some of the Articles will not fit the task.) Each poster should show a connection between poverty and their chosen Article from the Declaration. When the posters are completed, present them in a display case or the media center as a learning device for others. Select the most meaningful of the posters and present them to the school newspaper to be scanned into the paper to accompany an article on poverty and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Learner lists and discussion of the topic, as well as the completed posters, may be used to assess learning.

School/Home Connection:

  • Interactive Parent / Student Homework:
    Ask the learners to show the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to two significant people in their lives in different age groups and ask them if they are familiar with the document. Ask what Article attracted the most attention and what was the perspective of those reading the document?

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

None for this lesson.

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Jennifer Fields
Black River Public School
Black River Public School
Holland, MI 49423


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Poverty Statistics

Hunger persists in the U.S.

  • 34.9 million people-including 13.1 million children-live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents approximately one in ten households in the United States (11.1 percent). 1

  • 3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.3 million people, including 567,000 children, live in these homes. 1

  • 7.6 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger. Members of these households have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 25.5 million people, including 12.5 million children, live in these homes. 1

  • Preschool and school-aged children who experience severe hunger have higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety and depression, and behavior problems than children with no hunger, according to a recent study. 2


People facing hunger are increasingly turning to the Food Stamp Program for assistance in feeding their families.

  • Following years of decline, participation in the food stamp program has been on the rise over the past two years. In October 2003, over 23 million people participated in the food stamp program. 6

  • While it is not possible to determine what caused the increase in participation from the data available, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues it is likely that the majority of the increase can be attributed to the economic downturn. Due to loss of employment and income, more families probably became eligible for the food stamp program. 3


Churches and charities are straining to serve rising requests for food from their pantries and soup kitchens, especially from working people.

  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that in 2003 requests for emergency food assistance increased an average of 17 percent. The study also found that 59 percent of those requesting emergency food assistance were members of families with children and that 39 percent of adults requesting such assistance were employed. High housing costs, low-paying jobs, unemployment and various employment-related problems led the list of reasons contributing to the rise. 4

  • 56% of the cities surveyed in the Mayors’ report said they are not able to provide an adequate quantity of food to those in need. And just over half of the cities reported they had to decrease the quantity of food provided and/or the number of times people can come to get food assistance. An average of 14 percent of the demand for emergency food assistance is estimated to have gone unmet in the survey cities.4

Attachment One (Continued)

Lesson Two: Poverty and Human Rights


Poverty Statistics


  • America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest network of food banks, reports that 23.3 million people turned to the agencies they serve in 2001, an increase of over 2 million since 1997. Forty percent were from working families. 5

Cites and links to source material:

1. US Department of Agriculture, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2002.” ERS Research Report Number 35, 10/2003. www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr35/fanrr35.pdf

2. Pediatrics, Vol. 110 No. 4, October 2002 www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/abstract/110/4/e41

3. Joseph Llobrera, “Food Stamp Caseloads are Rising,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, November, 19, 2002. www.cbpp.org/1-15-02fa.htm

4. U.S. Conference of Mayors, Sodexho Hunger and Homelessness Survey 2003, December 2003. [no longer available]

5. Hunger in America 2001, America's Second Harvest, now Feeding America http://feedingamerica.org/

6. “Food Stamp Program Monthly Data.” Food and Nutrition Service Department of Agriculture, 22 December 2003. [no longer available] 


http://www.bread.org/hungerbasics/domestic.html Bread for the World Institute  January 13, 2004

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

During World War II allied countries began planning for peace before the war was over. In 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks outside Washington D.C., the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and China met to discuss how peace might be maintained after the war. Their goal was to create an international organization that would have the power to maintain security and foster prosperity.

Over 1,300 American non-governmental organizations called for human rights to be an integral part of any future international organization. In 1945 delegates to a Pan-American conference held in Mexico City demanded that the United Nations Charter include a strong and clear commitment to human rights.

In 1945 when representatives from forty-six nations gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations, they brought with them a respect for human dignity and worth. Forty-two American organizations acting as consultants to the U.S. delegation convinced participating governments of the need to provide clear protection for individual human rights. When the United Nations Charter was written, the governments of the world legally committed themselves to promote and encourage respect for the inalienable human rights that belong to every man, woman and child.

The UN Charter gave human rights a new international legal status. It mentioned human rights five times, first in the Preamble, which identified human rights as one of the four founding purposes of the United Nations. The Charter’s first article declared that UN member states must work to “achieve international cooperation . . . in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” Article 55 stated the UN will promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and Article 56 stated that members “pledge themselves to take joint and separate action” to achieve that respect.

The UN Charter took the first important steps toward implementing genuine protection of human rights. Article 68 mandated that the UN Economic and Social Council set up a commission “for the promotion of human rights.” This “Commission on Human Rights” spent three years drafting the Universal Declaration. U.S. Delegate Eleanor Roosevelt was elected Chairperson.

On 10 December, 1948, forty-eight nations voted for the Declaration, eight countries abstained (the Soviet bloc countries, South Africa and Saudi Arabia) and two countries were absent the community of nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without dissent.

While it is not a legally binding document, it served as the foundation for the original two legally-binding UN human rights Covenants, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.




Official Version

Plain Language Version


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

When children are born, they are free and each should be treated in the same way. They have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner.


Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Everyone can claim the following rights, despite
- a different sex
- a different skin color
– speaking a different language
– thinking different things
– believing in another religion
– owning more or less
– being born in another social group
– coming from another country.
It also makes no difference whether the country you live in is independent or not.


Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

You have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety.


No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Nobody has the right to treat you as his or her slave and you should not make anyone your slave.


No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Nobody has the right to torture you.


Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere, and like everyone else.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all.


Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

You should be able to ask for legal help when the rights your country grants you are not respected.


No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Nobody has the right to put you in prison, to keep you there, or to send you away from your country unjustly, or without good reason.


Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

If you go on trial this should be done in public. The people who try you should not let themselves be influenced by others.


  1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

  2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

You should be considered innocent until it can be proved that you are guilty. If you are accused of a crime, you should always have the right to defend yourself. Nobody has the right to condemn you and punish you for something you have not done.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

You have the right to ask to be protected if someone tries to harm your good name, enter your house, open your letters or bother you or your family without a good reason.


  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

You have the right to come and go as you wish within your country. You have the right to leave your country to go to another one; and you should be able to return to your country if you want.


  1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

  2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

If someone hurts you, you have the right to go to another country and ask it to protect you. You lose this right if you have killed someone and if you, yourself, do not respect what is written here.


  1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

You have the right to belong to a country and nobody can prevent you, without a good reason, from belonging to a country if you wish.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

As soon as a person is legally entitled, he or she has the right to marry and have a family. In doing this, neither the color of your skin, the country you come from or your region should be impediments. Men and women have the same rights when they are married and also when they are separated.
Nobody should force a person to marry.
The government of your country should protect your family and its members.


  1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

You have the right to own things and nobody has the right to take these from you without a good reason.


Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

You have the right to profess your religion freely, to change it, and to practice it either on your own or with other people.


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

You have the right to think what you want, to say what you like, and nobody should forbid you from doing so. You should be able to share your ideas also with people from any other country.


  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

  2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

You have the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in meetings in a peaceful way. It is wrong to force someone to belong to a group.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


  1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

  2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.

  3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

You have the right to take part in your country’s political affairs either by belonging to the government yourself or by choosing politicians who have the same ideas as you. Governments should be voted for regularly and voting should be secret. You should get a vote and all votes should be equal. You also have the same right to join the public service as anyone else.


Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

The society in which you live should help you to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to you and to you and to all the men and women in your country.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration, ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

You have the right to work, to be free to choose your work, to get a salary which allows you to support your family. If a man and a woman do the same work, they should get the same pay. All people who work have the right to join together to defend their interests.


Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Each work day should not be too long, since everyone has the right to rest and should be able to take regular paid holidays.


  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

You have the right to have whatever you need so that you and your family: do not fall ill, do not go hungry, have clothes and a house and are helped if you are out of work, if you are ill, if you are old, if your wife or husband is dead, if you do not earn a living or for any other reason you cannot help. The mother who is going to have a baby and her baby should get special help. All children have the same rights, whether or not the mother is married.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


  1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

  3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

You have the right to go to school and everyone should go to school. Primary schooling should be free. You should be able to learn a profession or continue your studies as far as you wish. At school, you should be able to develop all your talents and you should be taught to get on with others, whatever their race, religion or the country they come from. Your parents have the right to choose how and what you will be taught at school.


  1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

  2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

You have the right to share in your community’s arts and sciences, and any good they do. Your works as an artist, writer or a scientist should be protected, and you should be able to benefit from them.



Official Version

Plain Language Version


Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

So that your rights will be respected, there must be an “order” which can protect them. This “order” should be local and worldwide.


  1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

  2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

  3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

You have duties towards the community within which your personality can only fully develop. The law should guarantee human rights. It should allow everyone to respect others and to be respected.


Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

In all parts of the world, no society, no human being, should take it upon her or himself to act in such a way as to destroy the rights which your have just been reading about.

Official Version:


Plain Language Version:


Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:For the Well-Being of Our Citizens Summary


Social Programs and Government Responsibility
Poverty and Human Rights
To the Rescue

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