The failure of our civilization to deal with the well being of a good part of our citizens is not political. It’s something which can, in fact needs to be, talked about by every citizen in an apolitical manner because it concerns every single one of us.
-John Ralston Saul
A lot of what I have been doing this fall when I have not been blogging is work for the non profit organization of which I am chair of the Board. This board, recruited from a cross section of the population of our county, runs a Community Health Centre and three satellite CHC's in a neighbouring county, a Mental Health Support Group, a collection of programs for families with children (aged prenatal to six) at risk, and another collection called Lanark Community Programs that provides services for children with physical and mental challenges, as well as directing provincial government support to their families below the poverty line. This fall we held a workshop on poverty as it affects our community. The quote above is one of a series we used in the workshop; I have committed to make the series into posters to boost awareness of poverty in our staff and clients.
One of the things we do is promote good health. This means working on the things that help people get and stay healthy, rather than relying on treating the sick. The 'determinants' of good health include food security, a healthy environment, a stable community and much more. Our community here includes many, many working poor and the levels of unemployment and poverty are, given the present economic climate, growing rapidly as local industries shut down. The call on our local food bank is increasing at a terrifying rate; the price of heating oil is high and that causes terrible hardship in our climate where you cannot be without heat in winter. The lack of proper clothing for the cold or appropriate clothes for school is a huge difficulty for children. Something as simple as not using sunscreen because it is too expensive can lead to damage that will last a lifetime. Just as pernicious is a lack of hope.
My resolution for 2009 is to be aware, to look for, problems in my community and try to help. I ask all of you who read this to join in. I ask you to look for evidence of suffering and hardship and to do what you reasonably can to amend the problems you see. Something as simple as donating your children's outgrown clothing and toys to an organization that deals with families at risk could make a real difference in a child's life. Look close to home; is the woman ahead of you in the grocery line putting things back because she hasn't enough money? Look farther afield; is your province or state cutting back on funding for something like teachers' aides or seniors' support? Often a letter writing campaign can rearrange priorities at the funding source.
I'm lucky to have the time and the financial security to do a fair amount of work pro bono in my community. I couldn't have done so when my children were small and we needed my income. But awareness and mindfulness can be done in small increments of time and support does not need to be monetary. I know I am preaching to a lot of the already converted here. So many of you are already aware and working in many areas. But I hope you will, with me, continue to be mindful. I think we have tough times ahead and the tough will need to get going.
Best wishes to you all for 2009.