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Posts Tagged ‘poor’

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor
People come with plastic bottles and jugs to collect free water in Cape Town, South Africa, where a dire shortage spurred residents to cut water usage in half.

You may have read about the dire water scarcity in Cape Town, South Africa, a situation resulting from lack of public funds to do the work that would have protected the supply.

But this story shows how much people can accomplish when faced with a life or death challenge.

Ryan Lenora Brown reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “A year ago, [Musa] Baba and [Helen] Moffett had almost nothing in common, and in many ways, they still live in two different universes. Moffett lives in a manicured gated community flanked by mountains. Baba’s house is two tin rooms she built herself that grip the side of a hill cluttered with other small shacks.

“But these days, the two women, along with millions of others here, share a common preoccupation: how to save water. For Baba and many others, that’s been a lifelong project of necessity. But for another population of Cape Town residents, including Moffett, it’s part of a massive lifestyle pivot that has helped bring the city on the southwestern tip of South Africa back from the brink of the unthinkable.

“As recently as March, Cape Town’s government was instructing residents to prepare for an imminent ‘Day Zero,’ when taps across most of the city would be shut off indefinitely. …

“Newspaper headlines across the world blared [Cape Town] was about to become the first developed city in the world to completely run out of water.

“But behind the scenes, a tectonic shift was under way. As the city bartered for water with local farmers and hustled to build desalination plants, its residents simply started using less water. A lot less.

“And it has worked – at least for now. … Using a combination of sticks and carrots to coax residents on board, the city has cut its water use by half. Its biggest customers now use 80 percent less. Today, every Capetonian is allowed just 13 gallons of municipal water per day – a little less than the amount it takes to flush a toilet four times. Use more, and the city reduces your pressure to a trickle, and your water bill can turn into a mortgage payment. …

“Here in Cape Town, suburban residents have become connoisseurs of taking 90-second showers and then flushing their toilets with the water they collected while doing it.

“On popular water-saving Facebook groups, city residents debate the best way to wash their dog ‘off the grid’ (bottled water, one woman suggests. Scrub him down with used bath water, offers another.) They swap the names of local companies that will sink a personal well in your backyard. Local police, meanwhile, receive a steady stream of tips from concerned residents who’ve seen their neighbors committing the ultimate middle-class drought crime: watering their lawns. …

“Says Kirsty Carden, an engineer at the University of Cape Town’s Urban Water Management Research Unit, ‘Yes, it’s been a crisis, but it’s also good to learn these lessons now. Cape Town isn’t the only city in the world that’s going to need them for the future.’ …

“Water restrictions have had another, less obvious effect: They have given the rich a small but rare experience of how the poor have always gotten by.

“ ‘It’s humbling, learning to think about water the way most South Africans have been doing for a long time,’ Moffett says, arranging two gallon jugs of water from another local spring in the trunk of her car. ‘Every household chore takes three times as much thought, and three times as long.’ …

” ‘We have always lived like this – nothing has changed because of the drought,’ says Baba, sloshing a T-shirt in a sudsy bucket outside her house. ‘If now rich people can understand better what that’s like, I think that’s a good thing.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Evensi

My husband and I alternate between our two sets of grandchildren on Halloween. Last year we got a kick out of seeing John perform the role of MC for the costume fashion show at the park on his street. Although we won’t be there this year, I’m glad I got to see my oldest grandson in this year’s Yoda costume and his sister as a mermaid. Her puzzlement about the way the bottom of her costume was cut led to explanations of mermaid anatomy and collaboration on mermaid drawings.

This year we join the Providence grandkids (one gentleman fire chief, one lady construction worker) for the gathering at Brown Street Park and the annual parade through blocked-off Providence streets.

Brown Street Park has many Friends (changed to “Fiends” for the holiday). It’s in an upscale neighborhood near the university and flourishes because of people who both care about it and know how to raise money. If only all Providence neighborhoods were like that (which I say because behind one place where I volunteer, there’s a filthy campsite where drugs are sold. I am told the city cleaned it up once, but the vacant lot reverted to its current sorry state. How I wish the city would try again and neighbors would feel that they could go in and plant a garden or something!) But I digress.

If you go to the Friends of Brown Street Park website, here, you will find a well-organized group of volunteers soliciting help from other potential volunteers for initiatives such as the Hallloween party and parade, the summer concert series and the Earth Day clean-up.

In poor communities, good things can happen, too, but no outsider can come in and decree what those good things should be. First come efforts to build trust among all neighbors, as suggested here, then come deliberations about what neighbors actually want. I am going to look into getting the city to deal with that no-longer-vacant lot. It’s so disturbing for children who attend nearby activities. All neighborhoods should be safe for children.

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Laura Bliss at the Atlantic‘s City Lab has a story on young people you may have seen performing in a New York subway car. She reports that in the film We Live This, the teens’ hopes seem hemmed in by poverty.

“ ‘Showtime’ dancing is a hallmark of the New York City transit scene,” writes Bliss. “Hoping for donations, crews of young black and Latino men perform exuberant choreographies for subway passengers, twisting and leaping from pole to pole with artful ‘lite-feet‘ dancing in between—and never before shouting, ‘It’s showtime!’

“Who are these dancers scraping by on their earnings? A new, short cinéma vérité documentary, We Live This, shines a light on the world of one crew, whose four young members perform on the J train. They are talented, hardworking, committed, and full of dreams, the film shows. But for some, the obstacles are high, and the alternatives slim. …

“Forty, is homeless.

‘As I’m dancing on the train, I’m thinking about where am I sleeping at night,’ he says. ‘Who should I call? Who is going to pick up? What if they don’t answer?’

“Showtime is the best way he he knows to a better life, a way into a community, he says. …

“Of course, the subway is no simple launchpad to success. While some passengers love the dancing, many others avoid eye contact, and some even yell at crews to switch cars. …

“ ‘I hope people will watch this and look at these young men as human beings,’ the film’s director, James Burns, tells CityLab. ‘And see the last vestiges of a culture that may be dying out.’ ”

More.

WE LIVE THIS – OFFICIAL TRAILER from HAYDEN 5 on Vimeo.

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Some initiatives that are costly up front have benefits that far outweigh those costs but don’t show up for years. Even then, people may disagree about what caused the outcomes.

One such initiative sends nurses to new mothers who are young, poor and often friendless to help ensure that their babies get a leg up in life.

At the Washington Post

“A high school senior learns that she’s pregnant — and she’s terrified. But a registered nurse comes to visit her in her home for about an hour each week during pregnancy, and every other week after birth, until the baby turns 2. The nurse advises her what to eat and not to smoke; looks around the house to advise her of any safety concerns; encourages her to read and talk to her baby; and counsels her on nutrition for herself and her baby.

“This kind of support, with trained nurses coaching low-income, first-time mothers, is among the most effective interventions ever studied. Researchers have accumulated decades of evidence from randomized controlled trials — the gold standard in social science research — following participants for up to 15 years. They have consistently found that nurse coaches reduce pregnancy complications, pre-term births, infant deaths, child abuse and injury, violent crimes and substance abuse. What’s more, nurse coaches improve language development, and over the long term, cognitive and educational outcomes.

“Nurse coaching is a vital tool that addresses both the liberal concern about income inequality and the conservative concern about inequality of opportunity. …

“Still, nurse coaching reaches only 2 to 3 percent of eligible families. Which raises the question: if it’s so successful — and people on both sides of the aisle support it — why can’t it be scaled to reach every eligible family?”

There are two stumbling blocks according to the reporters: First, funding must be cobbled together from numerous unpredictable sources; second, the costs are up front, whereas the benefits to government and society appear over time.

“If nurse coaching were fully scaled to reach every eligible family, the costs to state and federal governments would outweigh the savings for the first five years. But then the savings would start to outweigh the costs. Over 10 years, the net savings would be $2.4 billion for state governments and $816 million for the federal government.”

So the question becomes: do we have the patience? More here.

A similar initiative that Suzanne started supporting when she lived in San Francisco focuses on homeless mothers. Read about the great results of the Homeless Prenatal Program here.

Photo: iStock
When nurses coach low-income moms, their babies benefit.

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A certain community organization that believes in the importance of affordable housing also believes in the importance of community. That is why it fosters numerous community-building initiatives, including the new Sankofa farm and market.

Leigh Vincola at ecoRI reports from Providence.

“If you have traveled around the city’s West End this winter, you may have noticed a number of buildings going up rather quickly. Wondering what they are and who they belong to?

“The answer is Sankofa, a Ghanaian word meaning to go back, get what is yours and make positive progress in the future. The Sankofa Initiative of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) is doing just this.

“The initiative was born in 2011, when the WEHDC completed an extensive survey of West End residents that determined their primary concerns centered around health and food. In a predominately low-income neighborhood — 32.5 percent of households live below the poverty level — the survey determined that for many the West End is a food-insecure neighborhood. There isn’t enough access to fresh food, and particularly food that is culturally relevant to the immigrant populations that make up the community, primarily Central American, West African and Southeast Asian. …

“Sankofa is a response to these needs, and has three main elements: an affordable housing development, a large-scale community garden and a weekly World Market. The $15 million project is funded by Rhode Island Housing and work is underway on all aspects.” Read up on the amazing range of positive efforts here.

According to the market’s Facebook page, things will get going for spring with a “pop-up market May 7th, from 12pm to 4pm at Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Ave. There will be art, bath and hair products, handmade jewelry, homemade candles, fresh food, FREE seeds, henna, giant bubbles and much more.”

Photo: Sankofa Initiative
The Sankofa World Market is a local farmers market with international flavor.

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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Here’s an idea that could give a welcome boost to underprivileged children: a free connection to the Internet at their home.

It seems that Google, in the spirit of its discontinued motto “Don’t be evil,” is piloting a new public service.

Matt Hamblen at Computerworld reports, “Google Fiber [recently] announced free gigabit Internet service to residents of selected public housing projects connected to its fiber optic service in U.S. cities.

“The program was launched at West Bluff, an affordable housing community in Kansas City, Mo., where 100 homes have been connected to Google Fiber. Across the Kansas City area, Google is now working with affordable housing providers to connect as many as nine properties that could reach more than 1,300 local families.

“Google described the program as an extension of its work with ConnectHome, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Obama administration. …

“In addition to free Internet, eligible residents will work with ConnectHome partners like Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange to be able to purchase discounted computers and learn new computer skills, Google said.” More here.

Depending on what the housing developments are like to live in and whether they provide supports like the Family Self-Sufficiency program to move people to independence, this could be a useful piece of the difficult poverty-reduction puzzle. So, good on Google!

Photo: ConnectHome 
A resident of West Bluff in Kansas City and her son are among the first of 1,300 families in area affordable housing units to receive Google Fiber gigabit Internet service at no cost.

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