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Posts Tagged ‘poor’

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Photo: Erin Clark/Globe Staff
Note that they are wearing gloves! Members of Chelsea Collaborative in Massachusetts pray before opening the doors to a pop-up food pantry. Covid-19 food distribution has been operating for about a month with food donated by local businesses and food pantries.

A sad but hardly surprising aspect of the Covid-19 plague is that the poor, minorities, and immigrants are often the most affected. A community in the Greater Boston area has been learning that the hard way. But in Chelsea there is a spirit of helping your neighbor that is a lesson for us all

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker writes, “Gladys Vega’s office at the Chelsea Collaborative does not normally resemble a food pantry. But normal times ended in Chelsea roughly six weeks ago.

“’We probably have 2,000 people lined up, and I’m giving out food in an hour,’ she said when I talked to her Thursday afternoon.

“In a state that has become a hot spot of the coronavirus, hard-hit Chelsea might be its white-hot center. But the frightening prevalence of COVID-19 is only part of the reason her nonprofit has become such a popular spot.

“The city’s status as home to a large population of undocumented immigrants has taken on new meaning in recent weeks. The people Vega advocates for are being shut out of other means of assistance, such as stimulus checks — one more way the pandemic has deepened the divide between haves and have-nots.

“ ‘They don’t have income,’ Vega said. ‘And now they are not able to pay bills or buy food.’

“Vega is giving out not just donated food, but diapers and other supplies as well. For this, she has relied upon a network of donors cultivated over many years.

“That’s where her friend Bob Hildreth came in. Hildreth is a wealthy philanthropist, having made many millions in finance. After walking away from that he founded a nonprofit in Lynn to help poor families, especially immigrant families, save up to send their children to college by matching their savings. …

“Hildreth told me he thinks this is a critical time for philanthropists to do as much as possible to help those the federal government won’t.

“ ‘I don’t think my fellow philanthropists are acting fast enough,’ Hildreth said. “’When you need food and drink you need it within a week. I think this requires an extraordinary effort to get money to grass-roots organizations.” …

“The tragedy in Chelsea has mobilized donors large and small, Vega said. A produce collaborative has contributed food. A group of women in Cambridge have made regular deliveries of diapers and baby formula. Local bodegas that may not survive the lockdown are donating to the food supply.

“ ‘I’ve been so blessed,’ Vega said. ‘Two weeks ago I was crying because I had no food and I had a list of 200 people looking for food. Today we delivered 65 boxes of 25 pounds of food for people with COVID who can’t come out of the house. We call ahead and leave it outside.’

Especially striking has been the philanthropy of Chelsea residents with relatively little to give. ‘A man on Social Security gave me $10,’ Vega said. ‘A woman I don’t know gave me her stimulus check. She said, “You don’t know me, but I want to help.” It’s been the most beautiful show of poor people helping poor people.’

“By Vega’s reckoning, Chelsea’s recovery will be a long haul. The city had been turning around, but that’s been stopped in its tracks. As of last week, Chelsea had the highest per capita number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts.

“ ‘The coronavirus in one month has taken five years of progress,’ she said. ‘This is a war zone right now.’

“Still, she and her staff keep performing their daily triage operation, with no plans to slow down. She said she’s getting about two to three hours of sleep a night. For now, that’s enough.

“ ‘You see the line and it gives you energy,’ she said. ‘You don’t have time to think about pain. You just continue to go.’ ”

I crossed paths with philanthropist Hildreth in my last job, and I can attest that he is sets an example for philanthropy. But what touches me the most is that people who don’t have much are giving such a big chunk of what they have.

More at the Globe, here, and at the Chelsea Collaborative, here.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
El Jefe’s Taqueria is among the restaurants Cambridge is paying to serve hot and cold meals to homeless shelters.

One of the many interesting aspects of the Situation has been the way leaders in states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands.

We know that individuals and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are stepping up, but some government entities are, too. Across-the-board federal efforts would be better, especially if we don’t want to see New York suing Rhode Island and other such anomalies, but we’ll take what we can get.

Here’s a story about Cambridge, Mass., a city that some have called Moscow on the Charles mainly because it tries to help the poor.

Erin Kuschner, writes at the Globe‘s Boston.com, “With restaurants facing a sudden loss of revenue due to Gov. Baker’s mandated dine-in ban, and homeless shelters seeing a drop in volunteers helping to deliver and prepare food, the City of Cambridge came up with a solution to benefit both parties: Paying restaurants to make and deliver food to homeless shelters.

“The program launched Monday after the city reached out to both the Harvard Square Business Association and the Central Square Business Improvement District to help organize the initiative, with a goal of distributing roughly 1,800 to 2,000 meals to various shelters by the end of the week. …

“Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that it has already brought roughly 15 restaurants on board to make meals for local shelters like the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Y2Y, a youth homeless shelter that has seen many of its student volunteers leave following Harvard’s closure.

“ ‘It just made so much sense,’ Jillson said. ‘We were on board immediately.’ …

“Among the restaurants serving Harvard Square’s homeless shelters are Black Sheep Bagel, Cardullo’s, El Jefe’s Taqueria, Orinoco, Subway, and Veggie Grill. Jillson said that they have tried to provide a range of healthy meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“The Central Square Business Improvement District partnered with PAGU to deliver meals to Bay Cove Human Services and the Cambridge YMCA.

‘We made our first delivery [Monday],’ said Michael Monestime, executive director at the Central Square Business Improvement District. ‘It was pretty humbling and sad at the same time. It’s hard enough being homeless on any given day, and then under these circumstances it’s even more difficult.’ …

“In addition to providing hot and cold meals to those experiencing homelessness, the city has set up a Cambridge Community Food Line, available to any resident who is a high risk for food insecurity.

“The delivery service provides a weekly bag of produce and shelf-stable food items to individuals and families who have experienced the following: The food pantry or meal program you used has closed until further notice; you have lost your job or part of your income and cannot afford groceries at this time; you are homebound due to illness, disability, or quarantine and do not have friends or family that can bring you food; you are at high risk for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and do not have access to a regular food source.”

More at the Boston Globe, here. Local readers, try to remember these restaurants and thank them with your business when we come out of the tunnel to the other side of this plague.

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Photo: Parklands Primary School
Children from Parklands Primary School in the UK enjoyed a Christmas extravaganza at the ice rink of Leeds East Academy. And Parklands staff volunteered their time to serve a hot Christmas meal.

Here’s a Christmas dinner story from the UK, one that would be perfect if it weren’t so necessary.

Alex Evans writes at the Yorkshire Evening Post, “Staff at Parklands Primary School volunteered their time to serve up a hot meal for the school’s 328 pupils and their families [Monday] at its ‘Christmas Eve Eve’ party.

“Youngsters were able to meet Santa Claus at the party which was set up by headteacher Chris Dyson. He says he was left ‘heartbroken’ when he discovered some of his pupils had never met Father Christmas and many wouldn’t receive gifts. …

“Each child received a Christmas present to unwrap — likely to be the only one they will receive this year, Mr Dyson said.

“The school, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, serves one of the largest council estates in Europe and an area in the top 1 percent in England for deprivation.

“Only a third of working-age adults have jobs and three-quarters of pupils qualify for the pupil premium, extra money given to schools from the Government to support the poorest children.

“Headteacher Chris Dyson, hailed ‘an inspirational leader’ by Ofsted inspectors said: ‘It broke my heart when I started at the school five years ago and found out that some families don’t even go to visit Santa, which is something we all just take for granted. …

” ‘So I said I would bring Santa to Parklands and get every child at least one present to open.’ …

“Mr Dyson’s initiative saw 150 people attend the school’s first party six years ago. The number doubled the following year and continued to grow. [Today] 800 people benefited from the headteacher’s generosity, which has been helped by donations from local business who have given cash and gifts, as well as Leeds City Council who have provided food.

“Mr Dyson added: ‘We are in the middle of one of the biggest council estates in Europe, a lot of our families don’t even go off the estate. …

” ‘Christmas is a vulnerable time for families, its cold and for some people it is the only hot meal they will get this week. I’m blessed that I have had so many presents donated that those with a birthday coming up will get a birthday present as well.’

“Mr Dyson took over at the school in 2014, after it went through five headteachers in just one year and was rated inadequate by Ofsted, the government’s education watchdog. It had the country’s highest number of annual exclusions and a padded cell was used as a form of punishment. Mr Dyson said he wanted to bring ‘love and smiles’ back to the school and has extended that to the wider community. …

” ‘It’s for the entire community, anyone can come and they all do. Our first year we had a lot of kids who didn’t come to our school come round, and I said Santa doesn’t turn people away. So we just welcomed everyone. … It’s a vulnerable time, food isn’t as plentiful here as where I live. It’s important they get a hot meal.

‘These kids will ask why doesn’t Santa answer my letters like he does to people in those middle class areas. I want to make sure they feel Santa hasn’t forgotten about them.’

More.

Just a reminder about the miracle of great teachers.

Hat tip: @HertsLearning on twitter.

 

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Photo: Nichole Sobecki for NPR
The cypress sapling above was purchased with money received from the charity GiveDirectly in 2017. More recently, the charity teamed up with researchers to study the impact of cash grants on a wider Kenyan community.

Here’s a new way to look at “trickle down.” Unlike the wealthy, who are more likely to put extra cash into savings, poor people who receive cash actually spread the wealth around. Read about the results of a new study in Kenya.

Nurith Aizenman reports at National Public Radio [NPR], “Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in a novel approach to helping the world’s poor: Instead of giving them goods like food or services like job training, just hand out cash — with no strings attached. Now a major new study suggests that people who get the aid aren’t the only ones who benefit.

“Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the study, says that until now, research on cash aid has almost exclusively focused on the impact on those receiving the aid. And a wealth of research suggests that when families are given the power to decide how to spend it, they manage the money in ways that improve their overall well-being: Kids get more schooling; the family’s nutrition and health improves.

“But Miguel says that ‘as nonprofits and governments are ramping up cash aid, it becomes more and more important to understand the broader economy-wide consequences.’

“In particular, there has been rising concern about the potential impact on the wider community — the people who are not getting the aid. …

“Miguel and his collaborators teamed up to conduct an experiment with one of the biggest advocates of cash aid. It’s a charity called GiveDirectly that, since 2009, has given out more than $140 million to impoverished families in various African countries.

“The researchers identified about 65,000 households across an impoverished, rural area of Kenya and then randomly assigned them to various groups: those who got no help from GiveDirectly and a ‘treatment group’ of about 10,500 families who got a one-time cash grant of about $1,000. …

“Eighteen months on, the researchers found that, as expected, the families who got the money used it to buy lots more food and other essentials. But that was just the beginning.

” ‘That money goes to local businesses,’ says Miguel. ‘They sell more. They generate more revenue. And then eventually that gets passed on into labor earnings for their workers.’

The net effect: Every dollar in cash aid increased total economic activity in the area by $2.60.

“But were those income gains simply washed out by a corresponding rise in inflation?

” ‘We actually find there’s a little bit of price inflation, but it’s really small,’ says Miguel. ‘It’s much less than 1%.’

“The study — recently released through the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research — also uncovered some evidence for why prices didn’t go up: A lot of local businesses reported that before the cash infusion they weren’t that busy.

“So when they suddenly get more customers, they don’t have to take extra steps like hiring more workers that would drive up their costs — and their prices. In economic parlance, there was enough ‘slack’ in the local economy to absorb the injection of cash.

“Eeshani Kandpal is an economist with the World Bank who has done research of her own on cash transfers — including a study that found that a cash aid program in the Philippines did drive up the cost of certain perishable food items. …

“The new study has a far broader scope, says Kandpal — encompassing not just a much larger number of participants but a vast range of goods and businesses whose pricing practices the researchers meticulously monitored.

” ‘It’s a super credible, interesting study,’ says Kandpal. ‘And very carefully done. … I’d be curious to see if they persist in the longer run,’ she says. ‘Eighteen months is certainly not short. But it’s not terribly long either.’ …

“Michael Faye, co-founder and president of GiveDirectly, says even if it turns out that a one-time cash infusion provides only a temporary boost, ‘I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.’ ”

And wouldn’t you rather see poor folks getting more money than wealthy people and corporations? I myself am doing OK and would really like to experience a more equitable world in my lifetime. More here.

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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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Heifer Project is a charity founded by Dan West, “a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?”

Recipients of Heifer Project’s cows, chickens, pigs, and other assistance commit to giving the offspring of the donated animals to others in need. That way the giving grows and spreads.

Recently, Heifer Project has been helping poor farmers in Guatemala make enough from their cardamon crops to live on.

Editor Jason Woods, has the story in the nonprofit’s magazine, World Ark.

“Miguel Xo Pop farms his own plot of land. Everyone in the Sierra de las Minas depends on two crops, cardamom and coffee, to survive. Xo and his family are no different. Traditionally, the cloud forest’s climate helps the two plants thrive, but in the past few years a pair of plagues cut cardamom prices in half and reduced coffee income to nothing.

“Recently, Xo joined a Heifer International Guatemala project that will help him keep the pests away from his cardamom while adding more crops to his farm, but the project is still in its initial stages, gaining momentum. So for now, Xo spends a quarter of a year away from his wife and five kids to earn money.”

More on the lives of the farm families, here.

The reporter also describes how an altruistic businessman moved to a “double bottom line,” one that includes charity.

“A couple of years ago, McKinley Thomason was searching for a way to use his Nashville-based spice business to make a positive impact. After hearing about Heifer International’s burgeoning work with cardamom, he knew he had found his organization.

“Shortly after contacting Heifer, Thomason’s company, The Doug Jeffords Co., started donating 10 cents to Heifer Guatemala for every seasoning blend sold from their J.M. Thomason line. But Thomason’s passion for Heifer’s work in Guatemala moved him to do even more.

“Thomason has been acting as a project adviser to Guatemalan farmers, sharing his market knowledge and technical expertise in the world of cardamom. He is also making connections and introducing Heifer Guatemala to other like-minded spice companies that could support this or other projects.”

More at Heifer Project, here.

Photo: Dave Anderson

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The Providence-based Capital Good Fund, which helps low-income folks get on their feet financially, has been testing an interesting fund-raising idea. Participating artists donate to the Capital Good Fund half the proceeds of a work that they sell through the fund’s platform. The art offerings change every few weeks. I include one example below, and there are more at https://squareup.com/market/cgfund. The selections feature a range of styles. Some works are representational, others impressionistic or abstract.

The organization’s website explains its mission: “Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit, certified Community Development Financial Institution that takes a holistic approach to fighting poverty. We offer small loans and one-on-one Financial & Health Coaching to hard-working families in America. Our mission is to provide equitable financial services that create pathways out of poverty.” More here and here.

The Rhode Island Foundation posts at its own blog about its latest partnership with the Capital Good Fund, an initiative designed to overcome the incentives that drive people to costly payday lenders. Read about that here.

Art: Carol C. Young
Barn on Robin Hill, 11″ x 11″ Giclée, limited edition signed print

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Everything old is new again. Here’s a story about a type of teaching that is coming back in vogue.

Peter Balonon-Rosen writes for WBUR radio, “Closing the gap between the achievements of low-income students and their peers is such a formidable challenge that some experts say it cannot be done without eliminating poverty itself. By the time children enter kindergarten, there is already a significant skills gap across socioeconomic lines that manifests in an income achievement gap that has widened dramatically over the past 25 years.

“In Revere [MA], a high-poverty school district, school officials have turned internally to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their notion is that school success can begin with a successful teaching model.

“ ‘What is this?’ kindergartner Thea Scata asks. She taps the picture of a rabbit with a wooden pointer and looks to the three other girls seated at her table.

“The group of four kindergartners at Revere’s A.C. Whelan Elementary School is learning about the letter ‘R’ — writing its shape and reviewing words that begin with the letter.

“ ‘Bunny!’ replies Bryanna Mccarthy.

“ ‘No, what’s the first sound? “R”— rabbit,’ Scata says to the group. …

“Whelan is one of 43 public elementary schools in the state that Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI), a Holliston-based education nonprofit organization, partners with to implement this teaching model into Massachusetts schools.”

Said “Kimberlee Clark, a first grade teacher at Whelan, ‘I’m really able to target those that need to be challenged and go above and beyond and I’m able to work with those students that need the extra support to get onto grade level.’ …

“Core to BSRI’s approach is independent student learning. As teachers work closely with small groups of students, the other students are expected to work by themselves on separate tasks.

“ ‘Students then own a piece of the learning,’ said Ed Moscovitch, chairman and co-founder of BSRI. ‘They learn how to learn from an independent perspective.’

“ ‘When they’re working together it’s not so much that students are teaching students, but they’re discovering and coming to the knowledge together,’ said Lenore Diliegro, a fifth grade teacher at Whelan.” More here.

Photo: Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR
Thea Scata, left, leads a group of kindergarten peers at A.C. Whelan Elementary School in Revere.

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A Framingham, Mass., couple who run a restaurant have decided to do their bit to combat hunger in their town.

Bella English has the story at the Boston Globe. “The Foodie Cafe is a 24-seater in a factory-and-warehouse section of Framingham. Workers stop in for coffee and eggs or for a lunch of homemade soups and breads, artisan sandwiches, and cupcakes with killer icing.

“But David and Alicia Blais, who own and run it, feed more than just their paying customers. They also aim to feed all of the city’s hungry. A chalkboard in the cafe proclaims: ‘Thanks to you (our wonderful customers), we have fed over 890 people in need this November. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’

“About three years ago, the couple opened the Foodie Cafe — they loved its huge kitchen — after selling a Walpole restaurant they had run for several years. …

” ‘There was no sense of food insecurity in Walpole on the scale found in Framingham,’’ says Alicia, 55. “All you have to do is drive around, and you can see the need. …’

“Devout Christians, the couple went to hear a pastor speak about his street ministry and when he mentioned that he always runs out of sandwiches for the hungry, they decided to help. …

“ ‘They’ve been tremendous to us,’ says Jim Bauchman, founder of Framingham Street Ministries. “I can’t thank them enough. I see it as a partnership.” …

“For them, feeding the hungry is a matter of philosophy and faith. ‘I feel that people should have the necessities of life,’ says Alicia. ‘People should be sheltered. People should have food. We have a restaurant. We make food. It’s not rocket science.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Inside Alicia Blais assembles sandwiches.

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