Fighting Poverty with Passion
“If you’ve come to help me you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine then let us work together.”
-Lilla Watson with Austrailian Aboriginal Group members
What does it mean to work “with” a community instead of “for” it? Does the purpose of the work being done change when the issue(s) that your community faces become yours one in the same. But in the same respect is it possible to work with communities to eradicate certain issues when some of those are not ones you yourself face. I’ll admit I haven’t quite figured that out yet..but some of my experiences over the last year and a half have led me closer to where I need to be to understand this concept.
As professional “volunteers in service to America” our mission is pledging to fight to end poverty. I don’t pretend to believe that after two years of work that I alone will end poverty or that AmeriCorps as a whole will fix this problem overnight. But nonetheless, poverty is at the root of so many issues our society is striving to fix so at the end of the day we must try.
Also, keep in mind the most important aspect of “ending” poverty or alleviating its pains, is to take the lessons and suggestions of people in the community you are working with to create this change. I believe that approaching issues that face an entire community are best solved from the bottom up, and not from the top down approach. The only way to have some semblance of success in this journey we must remember this: it takes a village. The communities we work with exist in part to help us learn and activate solutions that will effectively create a sustainable future for our society (those that are receiving help and those who are giving it).
The community where I work is not a place that I simply exist in to “help” or “serve” and move on. I know that everything in life happens for a reason and I was brought to this community (New Orleans and Broadmoor) to learn from others and spread my knowledge for greater good. Quite often I catch myself sitting in amazement for all I have learned from the community members I work with, and how they have helped me. They teach me how to be a more effective organizer, fight for what I believe is important as a change maker, and most importantly how to be a leader. I have learned that when we all create change together versus carrying out the us versus them mentality, we are all more successful.
So, moving forward I will work this next year to further my liberation and influence others to do the same. In this country we as a people are divided by endless systemic factors, political and social, but if we are complacent to these truths and make no attempts to change them then life isn’t really worth living is it.
This post is for anyone working in a space or sector that impacts communities and is wondering how to “help” them. It’s simple, sit down each day and evaluate the work you do from their eyes first and then your own. If you are not %100 certain of the decision you are making then reevaluate and start fresh the next day.