Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's times like these where what we're doing is more important than ever

The news has been pretty ominous lately. Hurricane Ike hitting the Gulf Coast of Texas, the presidential election continues with accusations from both the Republicans and the Democrats about who is less ready to lead the country. Finally, there's the recent news from Wall Street of turmoil and thousands of lost jobs as Lehman Brothers files bankruptcy, Merrill-Lynch is bought out by Bank of America, and AIG, the world's largest insurance company looks like it's going to be the next on the chopping block. These are scary times for all of us.

So, how can we, as a relatively small tutoring and mentoring non-profit here in Chicago, Illinois, ask for money in times where thousands of people have lost their homes to natural disasters, and thousands more have lost their jobs because the uncertainties of the market. All of us here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection are trying to answer these questions in our own way. From my perspective as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Coordinator, times like these mean that we need even more tutoring and mentoring programs than before.

We've seen how the New Orleans School District has struggled to rebound from Hurricane Katrina and many children down there are being, in no better words, "left behind." After this natural disaster money poured into organizations such as the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity to help survivors of the Hurricane get back on their feet. This was a wonderful show of generosity from the American people, but the money only flowed in for so long. Today, almost exactly three years after Katrina, people are still living in FEMA trailers and children are still going to failing schools. There still is immense need along the Gulf Coast.

I know I may be sounding like a broken record, but it is true that a great help to places like New Orleans, and now Galveston and the Houston area would be to start up tutoring and mentoring programs in these areas. Many of the children most greatly affected in these areas were living in poverty to begin with. After a natural disaster, this only compounds the need for extra help and confidence and a safe place to go after school. Some celebrities such as Brad Pitt, have shown a wonderful initiative in helping rebuild New Orleans with safer, more environmentally friendly housing. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a celebrity took on helping children succeed in places like New Orleans by championing tutoring and mentoring programs in those areas.

But you can be a champion of tutoring and mentoring programs even in tough times like these. While we are inclined to donate money, time, and supplies after a natural disaster such as Ike, we need to look at the long-term picture. Children are living in poverty all over the country and not just in communities that have been hit by natural disasters. Tough economic times mean that it's only going to get tougher out there for children in these areas to succeed. It will also mean that there will be more children and families to serve as people lose their homes and their jobs.

So what can you do to help these people out when you, yourself, are concerned about how you're going to make it? For one, you can volunteer your time over the long-term. Become a tutor or a mentor, sit on the board of a tutoring or mentoring organization, volunteer your expertise in finance or techonology to help these organizations run better than before. Working at a soup kitchen for just one day, or donating your clothes to a battered women's shelter are all fine ways of helping out, but the real help is made with a long-term commitment. Second, rather than making one big donation somewhere, make small donations on a consistent basis. This will be both beneficial to you and if enough people do it, beneficial to organizations throughout the world. Finally, if you're truly concerned about the people living in Galveston or New Orleans, or even worried about the children in Chicago who are being shot while playing in their front yard, look into how you can help start a tutoring and mentoring organization in these neighborhoods. If we all did something to help each other in these tough times, then the world would truly be a better place.

1 comment:

LaQueshia Jeffries said...

Nicole, I really appreciate your dedication. I have been struggling in my heart about how to make a difference and give back. It is vital that individual citizens impact their own neighborhoods. Your blogs have inspired me to open a dialogue with local educators as how to best help youth in my community. Keep up the great work.