ONE on ONE
Last week I was blessed to travel down to Lousiania and work with Habitat for Humanity for a week in disaster reconstruction. It was a most wonderful, rejuvinating week, working with great people, and a much needed break from politics in DC! I worked in Slidell, LA, in an area that was about 4 miles away from Lake Ponchatrain, and yet because of the levee break, this area of town had 4 feet of standing water in houses! The lake had risen that far out, it was quite incredible, and saddly, we were rebuilding Habitat homes, and the owners had just moved in the houses in June, only to have them destroyed at the end of August.
THe most wonderful experience for me was working with a 23 year old mother of 2, who was doing "community service." It was this, or 6-months in jail. THis young woman was quite the character, swearing, refusing to work, having already been thrown off several habitat and other community service sites. In her off time she was a dancer on Burboun Street in New Orleans. It seems that no one had ever taken the time to work with this ONE person, and show her somecar and love. It was my goal of the week to get her to work hard, and not simply hold a paintbrush in her hand.
It really is amazing how when we simply listen, talk, include and engage even the people that seem the most lost, how quickly things change. After a couple days she said she went back to her parole officer and buddies, and bragged that "I actually had FUN at community service today." The next day she got a baby-sitter for her children so she could stay later. By the last day, she was painting up a storm with me, laughing, taking group photos with my team, and telling us she would even return after her manditory hours were finished. It was so amazing to see this transformation in this girl, I was truely inspired about how each of our individual actions can truely make a difference.
Whether people are in the US, or in developing nations, many times they can become empowered to rise out of poverty simply if they are encouraged. So often, in my time in Uganda, friends would tell me that the world just thinks they are stupid, black, poor Africans, and so they cannot do anything. Of course this is not true, but what difference it really does make when I would work with community womens groups, listen to them, encourage, and maybe a couple pointers. Quickly simles would appear, and they would thank me to coming to their village, as a 'rich' westener, and 'caring about their poor village'.
Yes, I work in DC on large scale political issues, trying to make BIG change but we all must remember that as important as this is, it is equally important to do the little ONE on ONE things. If this encouragement is not present, than the additional ONE percent of the federal budget for poverty-focused development assistance will not be put to the best use it could be. To defeat poverty, the money must come, but also must come the passion, compassion, respect and faith in people to overcome poverty themselves.
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