Posted by: Barry | November 11, 2009

‘Learning to Fish’ at ABLE Families: How We Change the World

I divide my Executive Director duties between ABLE Families and our sister agency, Christian Help of Mingo County (with which we share building space and a passion for promoting the dignity of people whose dignity is often disregarded).  Christian Help provides many people in some very difficult sitations with food, clothing, household supplies, transportation, and help with utilities. 

The reason I bring this up is because someone asked me today about the fundraising that both agencies do, and my honest answer is one I’d like to share with you: Christian Help finds it much easier to successfully raise funds through private donations than ABLE Families does. 

This should not be surprising, I suppose.  When I see or hear about folks going without food or clothes, my gut tells me almost automatically to respond as generously as I can.  Mention services like those ABLE Families offers — an Afterschool program, GED tutoring, or in-home education about prenatal health and child care, for example — and the need just does not seem quite as “dire.”  And there’s truth to that.  But…

You know the old image about how we can respond to the needs of a hungry man — handing him a fish to eat today, or teaching him to fish so he’ll be able to provide his own meals every day?  Well, Christian Help is in the business of handing out fish — and that is crucially important.  Starving people don’t have time to learn to fish, so to speak. 

ABLE Families, on the other hand, is in the business of offering fishing lessons.  To put it another way, ABLE Families aims at reducing the number of people who need Christian Help’s help. That’s what we mean when we say our mission is “to confront the systemic causes of poverty by supporting low-income families as they make positive changes in their lives.” 

That is the thinking at the heart of having a full-time GED tutor who works one-on-one with anyone who’s willing to show up to prepare for the test; when a person who dropped out of high school earlier in life earns that GED, their “appeal” as a job applicant shoots up. 

That’s why we have an Afterschool program and summer camps: teaching children to love education, developing their curiousity, providing them with stimulating activities that enrich their educational process, and helping them avoid the troubles and bad habits that often develop in the afterschool hours, sets them on a road that will lead to many more successes in school and in life in the future.

That’s why our MIHOW workers begin in-home visits from the time a pregnant woman is willing to receive us, and continue visiting until that mother’s child is three years old: because healthy and effective child-rearing in those years can be the difference between that child thriving or struggling through the decades ahead. 

That, in short, is why we do what we do.  It’s why the financial support we receive is so important in the lives of so many people.  Want to change the world, or at least one corner of it, for the better?  A donation of your time or money to ABLE Families is a fantastic way to do it.

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