Yesterday was blog action day...and I am a day late. I worked late, then came home to watch the presidential debate. So, better late than never...
Today's blog post will be about poverty and what it means to me...and what I would ask of each of you to do to help support individuals living in poverty.
I found my passion in life when I first starting babysitting when I was 13. And when I was a teenager, my mom and I started volunteering at St. Louis Crisis Nursery, when I think I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. St. Louis Crisis Nursery provided child care to families who were experiencing a crisis and needed some time to take care of "life." I knew I wanted to work with young children, and I believe it was there that I saw that working with children and families living in poverty or crisis, or just in need was where life would lead me, and what would fulfill me and make me happy.
I now work at a Early Head Start/Head Start grantee. For those of you who don't know about Early Head Start (EHS) and/or Head Start (HS), is a federally funded program that provides comprehensive services to children and families living in poverty. What does comprehensive services mean? It means children and families receive education and support in the areas of: health, nutrition, mental health, social services, parent involvement, child development, disabilities, parenting skills, and accessing resources and services in the area in which they live. We believe that children will be more successful if they not only receive high quality early childhood services, but when the whole family is supported.
I want to clarify something about when I say that EHS/HS is a federally funded program. While we get significant funding from the federal government to run our program, we are required to raise additional funds, in the amount of 25% of our federal grant, to support our program. We can get these additional funds through other grants, donations, special events, volunteer work, etc. So, I want to be clear, while we get money from the feds, it's not enough. Over the past 3 years, the only increase we have received from the federal government has been in the form of Cost of Living Increases. You want to know what percentage of an increase we've gotten in the past three years...from 1 to 2% Go ahead, laugh...cuz it's funny. Really, it's not, it's horrible and unacceptable. And we haven't gotten a dime of an increase in order to keep up with the rising cost of doing business...so we are forced to use the same amount of dollars to serve the same amount of children when the costs of everything just keeps going up. And to add to the atrocity that is EHS/HS funding, we get money to serve a certain number of children. But they won't give us more, even though for the last 2 years we have maintained a waitlist of over 200 children. We like to be creative where I work, and find ways to increase funding so that we can start to serve more children. One of those ways is through community child care spots, where we charge a fee, just like other child care centers, but at a significantly reduced rate so that families living in poverty who are trying to maintain employment, can have a place to take their child. For a family of four, federal poverty guidelines say they can't be making more than $21,200. I cannot even imagine surviving on that...yet families do it every day.
I could go on and on about this topic, but I want to get to the things we can each do to help out. Here are my suggestions: *Support politicians (Barack Obama would be one!) who support early childhood education and EHS/HS specifically...and who want to support it with funding *Volunteer at a EHS/HS agency, soup kitchen, or other agency that provides services to families living in poverty *Donate gently used or new items, non-perishable food, etc. to local agencies who can pass them on to families who need them *Organize a fundraiser for a EHS/HS agency or other agency that supports families living in poverty *Give what you can, whether it be money, time, or specific skills to an EHS/HS agency or other agency that supports families living in poverty *Adopt a family for the holidays (I hate to imagine families going without especially during the holidays...imagine explaining to a 3 or 4 year old why you can't have presents like everyone else, just one present can make a big difference for a child)
I believe we can each make an impact...but the only way to do that is to do something. I know times are tough for many, many more Americans these days, but I would encourage you do pick something to do to make a difference. I promise you one thing, you will feel amazing afterwards!!
To find more information about poverty and blog action day, go to http://blogactionday.org! And go out their and make an impact!!