Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The Cycle of Poverty in the Local Richmond Community
Peace Forum February 2, 2012
By Valerie Hurwitz
Laura Arendt, third-year Bethany Seminary student, spoke Thursday, February at Peace Forum about Open Arms Ministry. OAM is a non-profit that we’ve talked about on the blog before. They provide emergency assistance for people in the Richmond area, both from their own funds and through coordinating funds local churches have for charity. I won’t repeat the detail that the earlier post contains, but please read it if you’re curious to learn more.
Laura’s talk was part logistical information and part theological reflection. She talked about the cycle of poverty, an institutional web making it unlikely that people in poverty will be able to change their educational and financial position significantly in life. In Wayne County, 40% of the school-age children live below the poverty line, #2 in the state. According to Laura, however, the primary need is not financial but personal. People coming into OAM and want someone to listen and validate the struggles they’ve been through. There is a feeling that the rest of the Richmond community, Earlham College, and local Christians have no idea what people in poverty are going through.
It’s critical to keep an open mind and heart to the people around you. It’s also important for those of us living in Richmond to be mindful of the incredible work that can be done in our own community. Laura pointed out that it’s easy for the residential students to feel poor living off part-time work and graduate loans, but ultimately important to remember that our educational loans are a “down payment” on skills,
transformational experiences, and future employment. Cyclical poverty is quite different. So, what examples of poverty have you seen in your area (particularly the Richmond area, if you’ve lived here)? What do you think are some solutions to that poverty? What can you do personally?
Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.