As individuals and organizations learn to think more carefully about poverty alleviation, and supporting people in crisis and need, it's important to start by asking deeper, foundational questions.
Emily Cowan, Intake and Family Coach Supervisor at Safe Families NYC , (a church-based movement training the church to provide care to families in crisis) recently shared this email with her volunteers that is so helpful in reframing and better informing those seeking to help.
As I brainstorm better ways to equip you, I think the best thing we can do is educate ourselves on poverty. What causes it, why people are stuck in it, the challenges one faces when living pay check to pay check, etc.
The best thing we can do because so many of our volunteers have lived and experienced very privileged lives, even if not monetarily wealthy. Most of us come from very strong family and community support systems that even if not affluent, were stable. And some of us and our volunteers will come from very affluent backgrounds and the cultural divide can be wide.
Which can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration as we and our volunteers try to befriend and help these moms. Our goals and expectations may be different from moms and we may not even realize it! And unmet expectations often leads to frustration.
And a big part of our job is to help our volunteers manage their expectations. Our volunteers will often be crossing socio-economic lines, racial divides, faith experiences, and trauma experiences. And a lot of volunteers will come in wanting to fix the problems and we have to gently remind them that we are there for relationship, not problem solving. Though hopefully through the relationship we can get to problem solving.
I'd like to share a story about a remarkable woman that I listened to today. Her name is Susan Burton, she grew up in Watts in LA. She served 6 prison terms before starting her own non-profit to support women coming out of the prison system. Her story is painful, but the way God has used her is amazing!
You can find out more about Safe Families and about how to get your family and church involved in this beautiful movement HERE