For most of my life I have been involved with programs that deal with poverty. My mother was a Head Start teacher and I helped her during semester breaks in high school and college, as a professional actor in Los Angeles I helped raise funds for Homeless Health Care. Since coming back to Iowa I have been proud to work with a number of charities and service clubs and recently my Rotary Club was introduced to an organization called “The Job Foundation.” That’s a long “o” in “Job” (the Biblical name).
The Job Foundation is a Not for Profit organization in Waterloo that operates on the premise that “economic empowerment for financially disadvantaged children” is the key to ending the perpetuation of poverty.
It does this by promoting financial stewardship to students through education and mentoring designed to teach impoverished children how to save money, how to become leaders, the importance of academic success and abstinence from illegal activities.
Please visit their website: www.thejobfoundation.org
Their paradigm to end poverty is to give impoverished children the tools to end the cycle of poverty that they inherited. In my view- THAT is the answer that has eluded the political debate.
What I love most about The Job Foundation is their philosophical reason for existing: ”It’s just the right thing to do. The success of even one child benefits us all and the continuation of financial disadvantage, in even one child, harms us all.”
I have made many arguments (on this blog and elsewhere) regarding what I consider the myths about welfare that stall our budget debates and diminishes the help America is capable of giving, and Jennifer Brost, the founder of the Job Foundation, enlightened me with her unique and very honest perspective. She said this in regard to criticism of people who receive assistance:
“It simply is not true that people who receive assistance are not working. They are working. They are working 12-15 hour shifts 6-7 days a week for a yearly salary of $24,000. Their kids only eat at school and their parents go hungry on a regular basis. It seems no one wants to believe this is happening in Waterloo but it is and it is very traumatic and costly.”
That perspective resonates because it isn’t a sheltered or filtered perspective built from hyperbole or conjecture, it is based on experience. Jennifer even chose to live in an impoverished building with people struggling to survive in order to discover the truth about their challenges.
I believe that the model that has been created by the Job Foundation of financial stewardship through education and mentoring could be a template to fight poverty throughout the state of Iowa. In fact, I believe that national recognition of this paradigm of economic empowerment could go far toward providing a measureable result from social spending.
Meanwhile, we can put our trust in people like Jennifer Brost and the Job Foundation and let’s rally, individually, to give them what they need.