Working to Address Poverty at Home

‘More honest communication.’ ‘Embrace individual differences and don’t put people into categories.’ ‘Counteract common stereotypes and biases’. ‘Poverty isn’t just about lack of money. It’s also about attitude and ideas. There are plenty of rich people who live in their own kind of poverty.’

These ideas and comments were the opening salvos of a workshop held at the Blue Hill Congregational Church on Saturday, January 11th. The workshop, a follow-up to Healthy Peninsula’s Early Childhood conference in October with Dr. Donna Beegle, was based on brainstorming ideas gathered during that successful conference on Poverty.

The overall ‘Statement of Purpose’ of the workshop was to create a framework for action that would assist educators, healthcare professionals, and concerned citizens to help young families living in poverty succeed in our communities.

The four discussion and action topics included: enhancing public awareness of poverty; supporting schools and educators to help children succeed; creating a map of resources that can support young families; and, opportunities for mentoring children and families. Within these larger topics were the challenges of food security, transportation, employment, access to medical and behavioral care, trust and relationship building that spread across and influenced all topics and areas.

The workshop, led by Sue Mackey Andrews of the Maine Resilience Building Network, was lively and interactive, allowing everyone to express their thoughts and their concrete ideas for action. The forty participants represented churches, healthcare, schools, food security projects, early childhood groups, and the state legislature from towns throughout the Blue Hill peninsula, including Deer Isle and Stonington.

Healthy Peninsula will take on the role of becoming the ‘back bone’ organization for these efforts in partnership with interested individuals and organizations. Some of the ‘first steps’ agreed upon by the group will focus on public awareness, and finding the ‘voices’ of people living in poverty so they can directly communicate their challenges and identify what they need. Although small groups will begin to meet and take on specified actions, the larger group, with the public invited, plans to meet again in the spring for future collaboration and action.

For more information about how you can get involved, contact Jill Day at Healthy Peninsula, 374-3257, or jday@healthypeninsula.org.