Article and photos by Christine Krikliwy, Tucson Voice of the Poor
On Thursday, May 28, just before the opening reception, we offered a workshop, open to all Vincentians, on Voice of the Poor and Bridges out of Poverty. This was the logical continuation of the sessions on Part 7 of the Rule - Relationship with Civil Society - in San Diego, in 2014, and of the sessions on Voice of the Poor and Systemic Change in Sparks, Nevada in 2013.
The workshop gave the opportunity to Western Region Vincentians involved with Voice of the Poor and Bridges out of Poverty to share their experiences with these projects and their future plans, all related to strategic Goal 4. Among those, who gave a report were Vincentians from Los Angeles, Paterson (Stockton Diocese), Contra Costa (Oakland Diocese), Sacramento, San Diego, Ashland (Archdiocese of Portland), Seattle, Boise, Phoenix and Tucson. The collective effort gave a clear impression of how much is happening in our region towards helping restore people’s dignity.
The Tucson Council is the first in the region to pilot the “Getting Ahead” program, which is based on the Bridges out of Poverty construct. Ann Meyers, Christine Krikliwy, Joan Grecchi shared information on the program and their experience with recruitment and mentoring. Dan Torrington, Council President, commented on the estimated cost of $800 for each “investigator”, stating that the amount is how much a conference would spend for a couple of month of rent, just to prevent a family from being evicted. Spending the same amount on GA participation, gives a person the skills needed to get ahead and eventually move out of poverty. Therefore, it is money well spent.
After this presentation, the session exploded with questions and comments about the “Getting Ahead” program and on the initial steps and tools required for implementing the program successfully. How, what and where? Here are some of the questions:
2) How does one obtain funding for the program, as Conferences generally need the money collected from their congregation for direct help? In Tucson, the local Diocesan Council funded the pilot program. We will then use the success stories from the pilot program to apply for grants and funding from public or private agencies. Our national CEO, David Barringer reminded us that the National Office also offers grants for starting the GA program.
3) How does one recruit mentors? Mentoring is an extremely important part of the “Bridges” program. We should do presentations concerning mentoring to all our local Conferences. Mentoring has nothing to do with helping financially. Mentoring means walking with the individuals, answering their questions, encouraging them, introducing them to agencies that can provide the resources they need, during the difficult journey out of poverty, as they follow their plan to get ahead. Many Vincentians are rich in knowledge and experience and can share their expertise. In Tucson, we require from mentors at least a one-year commitment.
In spite of the 70 or more seats in the room, there was standing room only, some participants were sitting on the floor and others pressed at the doorway, trying to peek-in.