B1 Intermediate US 471 Folder Collection
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Translator: Rhonda Jacobs Reviewer: Peter van de Ven
Fourteen years ago,
I became the executive director of a small shelter called Growing Home.
With the help of just one other full-time staffer
and hundreds of caring volunteers,
we provided about 30 families a year with warm beds, home cooked meals,
and a lot of care.
We had few resources, but a lot of heart.
One day I was walking down the hall of our shelter,
and a young woman with a baby and a toddler approached
and greeted me, "Teva!"
I did the, "Hey, how are you?"
that I do when I don't actually recognize someone who clearly knows me.
"I'm Jackie," she said, "do you remember me?
I was in the shelter with my mom when I was a kid."
At this point, I did remember her.
She was a smart, energetic teen,
a freshman in high school just six years before,
full of hope for her future.
Now, she was a mom herself.
She'd dropped out of high school her senior year
and was working in the local box store.
"I remembered your shelter was a such a safe, warm place to stay,"
she said, "so I thought of you when my kids and I lost our home."
I was horrified.
I never thought our shelter would become a rite of passage
for parents in our community.
Jackie was the face of intergenerational poverty,
but she wasn't supposed to be.
We aimed to help families achieve self-sufficiency,
not just provide a temporary place to stay during a tough time.
We'd helped Jackie's family once.
She was supposed to grow up, finish school, get a good job,
and live a happy, stable life.
She didn't make it.
And that's when I realized we were getting it all wrong.
And this should worry us, because the stresses of growing up in poverty
permanently alter the wiring in the brains of developing children,
lowering their resilience and increasing their chances
for a number of serious physical and emotional problems.
Studies tell us that kids in poverty fall behind early,
and that by the time they're four years old,
they're already a year and a half behind their middle-class peers.
And when they aren't reading proficiently by third grade,
they're six times less likely to finish high school.
It's almost impossible for them to catch up.
Now, think of Jackie again,
and multiply Jackie by 16 million,
because right now, we're failing the 16 million children
living in poverty in the U.S. today,
including 190,000 kids right here in Colorado.
That's enough kids to fill Mile High Stadium two and a half times.
What I realized that day is that Jackie isn't the failure,
we are.
We spend over a trillion dollars each year on poverty in this country
and have one of the most robust non-profit sectors in the world,
and yet our poverty rate is far higher than most of the developed world
and is more than double that of our biggest global competitor, China.
I believe there are three main ways we're getting things wrong.
First, we've relegated poverty work to the realm of the heart,
to the Mother Teresas, to the do-gooders, to the charities and the churches.
And heart is absolutely essential, but my beef with leaving poverty there
is that it's dismissive of the seriousness and the complexity
of the problem we are trying to address.
No matter how many cans of soup or warm beds we provide,
we will not solve poverty without our brains as well.
Too often we focus on the immediate human needs
without addressing the issues that create them.
It would be like responding to the diabetes epidemic
by setting up more clinics for the blind.
Next, we need to stop placing the burden of escaping poverty
on the individuals experiencing it
and start breaking down the crushing systems that keep people there.
Like when we try to help people escape poverty by achieving "self-sufficiency,"
when in fact what we have is a structural problem.
There are far too many jobs in our economy that just don't pay a living wage.
Presumably we need all these jobs, so let's think of a way to structure it
so that parents who are working full time or more
earn enough to support their families.
I'll never forget the mom who came into our shelter
after giving birth to triplets.
Her two-week-old preemies were still in intensive care,
and she was already back at work at the fast food restaurant.
Because she wasn't paid a minimum wage- a living wage, rather,
and because she didn't get paid
for that month she'd spent in the hospital,
she'd lost her home,
and now she was working overtime
to try to get a place to bring home her children.
Each night after work, she spent two hours on the bus
to go and visit her babies in intensive care.
One day she was crying because the nurse had chided her
for not spending enough time with them.
And these two flaws in our methodology stem from a flaw in our belief.
This kind of poverty will not always be with us.
It is not the norm throughout the developed world.
We can end it.
So that day when Jackie came back, I went back to the drawing board
and I began to think about what we could do to actually solve poverty.
We're just one non-profit in one small corner of the country,
but I pledged that day to do better,
and to work with our families to identify and overcome
the impossible barriers that they're up against.
The emerging thinking
is that the ecosystem in which kids grow up matters.
A new study from Harvard, in fact, shows a causal relationship
between the county you live in as a kid
and your future earnings as an adult.
They've even been able to monetize a positive or a negative effect
for each year you live in a given county as a child.
Since we can't just take all the kids in our poor community
and move them to more affluent counties,
our goal is to impact the place in which they live.
We aim to reach at least 60 per cent of the families with young children
in our community.
Think about how change happens.
We are social creatures urged towards progress by our social networks,
like when smartphones were new.
Those of us who were anything but early-adopters resisted at first.
But when a solid majority of our friends and family had them, we went along.
I was like, "Jeez, if my dad, who types like this...
can manage one, surely I can."
That's the tipping point we're trying to reach.
So, right here in suburban Denver in the summer of 2014,
we shifted our efforts toward empowering one entire neighborhood,
and rather than helping families here or there,
our goal is to transform the entire community.
We call this 20-by-20 block area our "Blocks of Hope Community."
Rather than merely providing direct services,
we aim to build equity in our community by reforming systems and policies.
We began by going door-to-door,
to ask members of the community how they saw their community
and to find out what help, if any, they needed.
Because when you reach out to members of the community
and you invite them to be a part of the process,
it stops being about doing things for people,
and it becomes about doing things with people.
Why do this?
Because it's a small scale approach to ending systemic poverty.
We utilize a couple of key strategies to maximize our impact.
The first is early childhood intervention.
We know that if we can prepare a child to learn in kindergarten
and keep them on the path through third grade,
that they will be on the path to success.
Economists say that for every dollar we invest here,
we're saving about seven dollars in future public spending.
We also use a dual-generation approach,
addressing not only the needs of the children,
but the goals of the parents as well.
Whether it be going back to school, or working on their immigration status,
or joining a union,
when kids and parents see each other working on their goals,
the inspiration flows both ways.
And we're seeing great results.
In the first year, we were able to reach about a third of the families we need
to reach that 60 per cent critical mass.
Parents are showing improved parenting skills,
increased parent participation in schools,
and better family stability.
Over 90 per cent of the families we served
showed a measurable improvement in skills and knowledge
that we know will result in better outcomes for their kids long term.
Two: we doubled the number of participating families
and we began to see neighborhood-level shifts.
Parents are going to the school in the evening to take parenting classes,
they're taking care of each other's kids when they have to work overtime,
back-to-school night has become a neighborhood affair.
One group of moms got a playground built in their apartment building
and are fighting for needed renter protections.
Other parents are meeting with elected officials
to advocate for the critical need to preserve and build affordable housing.
There's a new sense of ownership in this community,
and we're even more excited to see what happens
when we reach our target saturation.
If we continue on this trajectory,
I'm confident we'll make a lasting change with and for this community
in Northwest Denver.
But we need to solve poverty nationally,
and we can.
We can do this the way we've achieved other historic accomplishments.
When we set out to cure polio or put a man on the moon,
we started by setting an audacious goal,
and committing to a long process of trial and error,
dedicating resources and research to the problem
and utilizing our experts.
We can do this again for this problem.
We must pledge that we will not allow this cycle to continue,
not in the biggest economy the world has ever known.
We all have a role to play, not just non-profits and churches,
but businesses and government too.
Poverty is a complicated problem with a complicated history,
impacted by complicated systems, and so it's easy to get overwhelmed
and just go back to doing what we've always done
or worse yet, do nothing at all.
Let's acknowledge these tough truths and move forward.
Let's stop blaming Jackie for being born poor,
for growing up poor, and ending up poor as though it's somehow her fault.
(Applause) (Cheers)
Instead, let's look at the systemic underpinnings of inequity
that perpetuate cycles of poverty.
Let's commit our hearts and our heads to solving this as a nation,
and not just in 20-square-block areas.
And let's invite the experts to the table,
in this case, members of the communities that are impacted.
We set out as one small non-profit to end poverty in our community.
Let's commit our vast resources to creating a tipping point as a nation,
so that we can stop treating the symptoms of poverty
and end it once and for all.
(Applause) (Cheers)
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We can end poverty, but this is why we haven't | Teva Sienicki | TEDxMileHighWomen

471 Folder Collection
Mayu Okuuchi published on December 13, 2019
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