My Poverty-Fighting Superheroes
You never know -- your mild-mannered neighbor, co-worker, or long-time buddy may be a hero in the battle against poverty. He might prepare meals for the homeless; she might tutor at-risk kids. I have lots of poverty-fighting heroes but there are a few who stand out because of their fanaticism, contrarianism, or perseverance. Here are their stories in honor of Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty.
Nita unmasks evil sales messages disguised as financial advice.
She wielded her expertise to fight financial illiteracy and empower citizens to make good financial decisions. With a doctorate in Financial Education (Ed.D.), Nita ran a one-person, government-funded Money Management Center that educated community members on personal finance topics. She shared her expertise through private counseling sessions, newsletters, workshops, in-school programs, and television segments.
I met Nita at a speaking engagement and later became a member of her advisory board. At one of the board meetings, I met a church pastor who expressed concern about predatory business practices that affected members of his congregation; at the time, he was complaining about rent-to-own agreements that required payments well beyond the original purchase price. Such practices, along with unawareness regarding other purchase options, he believed, were one element in preventing the poor from acquiring wealth. But it is not just the financially naïve who need guidance; Nita helped those who were reasonably savvy (me, for example as I have a BSBA-Concentration in Finance) break down the elements of financial matters and make good decisions.
Sadly, Nita’s position was eliminated several years ago because of budget cuts.
Debbie smashes inaction.
Debbie is a member of a non-profit, all-volunteer service club of about 20 people who provide support to those with communicative disorders. Members of the group, along with sister chapters, spend a lot of hours raising money (yard sales, spaghetti dinners, bowl-a-thons, ballgame concessions) to fund yearly programs such as one-on-one summertime speech therapy for children receiving group therapy during the school year and a week of traditional camp for children who are deaf or have deaf parents or siblings.
o, when random individuals surface with requests of $500 to $1,500 for a hearing aid repair bill or a technology-driven communication device, there is an inevitable hesitation to immediately write a check. Questions about whether government sources of funds have been exhausted are tossed around. But Debbie, who is aware of bureaucratic hurdles and the dangers of long wait-times, urges prompt action so that, for example, the hard of hearing young adult can understand his boss and family (with his now-working hearing aid), and the autistic child (with a special device) can communicate with his teacher and parents as soon as possible.
Dean concocts scheme, leverages compassion.
Dean was the mastermind behind an assistance organization that started as a brainstorming session during his Sunday school class and became a long-standing crisis resource for residents of his small town. The organization provides grocery items and money to clients on a one-time or limited-time basis. Though information on each client is recorded, a lengthy interview and intake process is not involved. With immediate needs met, clients can more intentionally deal with problems that the crisis (such as a family member’s death, job loss, or house fire) created. Through quick action, his group helps to prevent escalating problems.
The group is now a coalition of more than 10 churches and receives regular support from community members and groups such as the scouts, who organize an annual collection for the pantry.
Linda fights for good nutrition for all.
Linda is an RN who teaches childbirth and nutrition classes to expectant parents in her spare time. She’ll urge any pregnant woman to look into WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), making no assumptions about the eligibility of her audience but rather emphasizing the value of good nutrition and its accessibility for everyone (USA program).
Patricia and Sarah lift large obstacles to work.
Patricia is the Executive Director and Sarah is the Director of Support Services of an inner-city child development center that serves low-income families. Access to high quality, affordable childcare is a major obstacle to work for many parents and, more recently, grandparents. By offering scholarships and sliding scale tuition rates, weekly fees are affordable. Patricia and Sarah are aided by a host of donors throughout the community as well as cyclists who participate in the agency's annual charity ride.
Want to help alleviate the causes of poverty or suffering caused by poverty? Here are a few programs that have gotten my attention recently:
- Bikes for the World (donate bikes to the poor in developing countries or the Metro DC area, where the non-profit agency is located)
- Crop Hunger Walk (walk and raise money or sponsor a walker to raise funds for local and global hunger-fighting agencies)
- Train for Humanity (sponsor Leo or others to benefit Darfur Peace and Development Organization)