Ahead of the Nov. 27-30 Communications Across Barriers Poverty and Coaching Institutes — events designed provide professionals and community organizations with tools to better understand poverty and make a difference — guest blogger Dr. Donna Beegle joins AETN to share what average people can do in their communities.
In the 1700s, poverty was essentially made illegal or thought to be a character flaw. Today, many people living in the crisis of poverty continue to be punished for poverty conditions. Many efforts to eradicate poverty fail or — at best — assist people in “coping” with current poverty conditions. What can we do to ensure our neighbors are moving out and staying out of the war zone of poverty?
Here are five basic ways you can act to make a difference:
Informing yourself starts with learning about the many different types of poverty and how each impacts fellow human beings. Seek to know what is happening in your community. What are the facts about poverty? How many people have their lights and/or water turned off weekly? How many children and adults are going hungry? Are there safe places for people in poverty to live? How many evictions occur on a daily basis? How many cars are towed because people cannot afford car insurance? How many people are making choices between trailer space payments and their co-pays on medicine? Listen and seek to understand from the perspectives of people who are experiencing poverty and work together to remove obstacles.
Examine your beliefs about poverty and your neighbors who live in it.
What do you believe about poverty and those who experience it daily? In America, we graduate people from college without “Poverty 101.” For many people, poverty is defined by a life experience that they or someone they know have had. In the media, we typically see the extreme, sensationalized, worst-case scenarios. Without a deep understanding of the many different types of poverty and how each impact our neighbors, it is easy to judge. If you are judging, you cannot connect. If you cannot connect, you cannot communicate. If you cannot communicate, you cannot change lives.
Notice people, and treat them with dignity and respect.
Your tone of voice, eye contact and understanding can mean the world to someone who feels alone. They are people — not so different from you — who are experiencing different daily realities. Seek to find common ground, and treat people as you would like to be treated.
Focus on what is right about your neighbors living in poverty.
If you look for problems or what people don't know, you are likely to find more problems and focus on what is wrong. Studies show that people in poverty are more likely to give than people who have money. They are more likely to invite you in and stop to help you. They are also incredibly creative and inventive because they have had to learn to make do with so very little.
Join local non-profits and schools, and ask how your expertise and compassion can be used to support efforts to break poverty barriers.
Agree to be on a resource and opportunity email list. If someone has a barrier that you have solutions or resources to remove, share your existing resources and/or knowledge.
350 S. Donaghey Ave., Conway
350 S. Donaghey Ave., Conway