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 :)

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