Friday, February 25, 2011


So sorry about the long time between blogs been kind of busy working (and when I do have down time, I'm too tired to write).  As I have stated before I am changing the direction of the blog.  The focus of this blog is poverty and how I am helping to fight this issue.  But before we get into fighting poverty, I think it is good to discuss “What is poverty?”  First, lets paint a picture.
When most people think of poverty they think of third world countries where resources are scarce.  These countries where children have bloated bellies or children have ribs that can be seen clearly through their chest.  We have all heard of undeveloped countries where children cannot afford to go to school because instead they have to work to still bring home next to nothing for their families.  When we are up late at night, we see the commercials asking us to send $20 a month to help a family that has to walk miles to get somewhat clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  This picture might make poverty seem like it's in a far away land.
Then there is the picture that portrays the reality of poverty: it is not far away but it is right here in the U.S.A.  Believe it or not, there are third world-ish countries in our backyards. Yes, right here in the “Land of Opportunity” there are people who go hungry most nights of the week, live in houses without indoor plumbing, and because of a lack of education will only be able to get low-wage paying jobs that will only keep their heads barely above water.  In undergrad, I remember watching a video on just how bad poverty is in the U.S. (if I can find I will post it).  In the video there was a man hunting “swamp rats” in his backyard just so his kids could have protein with their meals.  It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about him having to do this in one of the richest countries of the world. 
So after reading the past two paragraphs, one might define poverty as lacking necessities as in money, food, livable shelter, and other material things.  Some might say that it is deeper than that.  While attending training in Philadelphia, PA for AmeriCorp VISTA, we learned that poverty could be mental, emotional,  or lack of role models.  I guess one can have a lot of money but if they do not have common sense they could be considered in mental poverty.  According to this definition, you could have money, mentally and emotionally stable, but if you are lacking those in your life to help you make good decisions it could be seen as that you are living in a poverty. 
Now this is where poverty gets confusing.  I have heard someone say "I was an adult before I realized that I had lived my life in poverty."  So how is this possible?  It could mean that their families did not put a lot of emphasis into material things.  Instead this particular family could have put emphasis on spirituality, values, morals, or in some cases education (public libraries offer numerous classes for free to anyone that wants to takes them.), things you can obtain without a large amount of money.  In that case, poverty can be define as a state of mind: if you think you are in poverty, then you are.
After really thinking about it, there is really no exact way to define poverty but there is something that holds true: No one should have to go hungry where there are resources available for them to eat.  These resources could be going to food pantries, government programs that provide access to food (i.e. food stamps), or we as a community can start looking out for one another (this could mean starting a community garden).  However you define poverty, know that it does not exist in some far away land that you can detached yourself from but it is in your community. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#NewDirection (not the Glee New Directions)

So I think that I have decided to take this blog in a new direction. As some of you might know (or not know) I work with AmeriCorp VISTA.  It is basically a less intense Peace Corp.  For a year I have chosen to take a huge pay cut (and I do mean HUGE) to serve communities in Arkansas that are in poverty.  My exact title is SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program or Food Stamps) Outreach Program Coordinator.  Ok, I made this title up for my self but hey I like it better than VISTA Volunteer.  I train workers in Food Pantries and volunteers on how to sign their clients up with Food Stamps using the online application.  So far my work has been a little overwhelming but it has also been exciting. 

This past week I attended training in Philadelphia, PA.  It was my first time being there and its a beautiful city.  I got to see the Liberty Bell (which is not that big) and the LOVE statue (which is also not that big).  It was really cold so I did not get to do a lot of sight seeing. But the purpose of this trip was to better help me understand what my job was and what was expected of me during this year.  In my job I am expected to do my best to implement a program that improves the conditions when it comes to child hunger which is in it's highest in Arkansas.  In Arkansas, 160,000 children are not being fed on a regular basis (, 2010) My chosen program is SNAP Outreach.  Hopefully, if more families can get signed up with SNAP benefits more children will not go hungry.  At least that's our hope. 

I had a lot of thoughts and presumptions going into this job.  I went into this job thinking that I understood the poverty class and that I knew exactly what they needed.  I learned real quickly that I knew NOTHING of their struggle and I still have A GREAT DEAL to learn about how they got there and how trying to improve their conditions have actually made their conditions worst. Ex: If you make 1 cent over the poverty line, all benefits(Medicaid, food stamps, welfare) could be shut off in some states.  It is almost better for them [those in poverty] to not work at all. 

I have been on the job a month and I have learned some things about myself: I judge awfully a lot.  I could not see it before but I realize it now.  I would see a woman walking with 3 or 4 kids and could tell they were having a hard time and I would say "Why did she have all of them kids if she could not take of them?"  This is a statement that I know some of you have made also.  But while I should have been thinking of a way to make sure her kids were eating, I was judging her for her past.  I hope at this end of this year I will be more open-minded and not so quick to judge others. 

As I said before this blog is taking a new direction.  I have decided to tell the stories of those who cannot tell their story by going in depth about what my job is.  This blog will show what poverty is like right here in Arkansas.  When we think of poverty, we think of third world countries but a lot of times it's right next door.  Also I want those who are in my generation (90's generation) to really read this blog and be more appreciative and to not dwell on things that you don't have.  Why you are mad that you do not have the latest smart phone, some child has not eaten since lunch yesterday at school.  I want anybody that is reading this blog to read it with an open mind and an open heart.  Don't look at people in poverty like it's totally their fault but have compassion for them. Thanks for going on this journey with me :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Woke up Tuesday morning like any other day to get ready to go to work just to come outside and see that my car is running hot and there is no way that my car is going to make it from Conway to Little Rock.  I'm highly upset considering the fact that I am going to have to call in and I just started the job TWO WEEKS ago.  I sit in my car and say what most people say when something bad unexpectedly happens, "Why me, Lord?"  But I shake it off and return back home.  Wake up this morning with the same car problems.  And then again I ask myself "Why me, Lord?" 

I don't know "why me."  But I accept that its unfortunately this thing called: LIFE.  LIFE is something I am learning more and more about everyday.  I'm learning LIFE does not care if things are going good or going bad, LIFE is just going to keep happening and keep going.  LIFE does not care if you are broke, sick, depressed, or in the midst of a breakup or divorce.  LIFE does not care about race, nationality, sex, origin, or sexual preference.  LIFE happens to everyone and it keeps going.

You might ask "what do you mean LIFE happens?" Well, simple: LIFE is everything we do and encounter everyday as we are still breathing.  You might hear someone say "If it's not one thing, it's another." That's called LIFE.  There is always something happening and unfortunately, we cannot control when, where, or the severity(good or bad) these things happen.  We just have to deal with these fortunate or unfortunate things as they come.  How we deal with these things in LIFE shows if we are growing up or letting them take us down.  Because we know LIFE happens we should not be shocked or ready to give up when these things do happen, whether it be your car breaking down or losing a loved one.  These things only makes us stronger. 

And that leads to my next point: LIFE keeps going.  No matter what  you are going through, LIFE never stops. No matter how much we wish we could push a pause button just to take a minute to breath we can't.  We have to deal with these things knowing that tomorrow is still going to come.  Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are doing that we forget that there is a tomorrow and that this difficult hour is not always going to last.  Knowing that LIFE keeps going is just another reason that we should not let LIFE's problems stop us.  But we should do the same thing: KEEP GOING.  When I'm having a bad day I think of Matthew 6:34.  It basically tells us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has its own problems.  Yep, LIFE is always happening and it keeps going.  So what we do is we make ourselves strong to deal with whatever might come along.  We train ourselves to endure LIFE's craziness.  We make ourselves see the brighter side of things.  And most importantly, we pray to our loving God who loves us and wants to be there when we have #MorningsFromYouKnowWhere :D