Monday, April 18, 2011

Charity, Poverty, and Bandages

On April 13, I was invited to speak at a meeting of the West End Interfaith Coalition on Poverty (Weicop). Weicop is comprised of representatives from 12 churches of different denominations in the west end seeking to find solutions to issues of poverty and homelessness in the area.

I was asked to speak as a representative of the Boyle Street and McCauley area, through my work with Boyle McCauley News. There are issues concerning poverty and homelessness emerging in the Stony Plain Road area that are comparable to the inner city. And, as someone who walks between the worlds of downtown and the west end (my family home is not far from Stony Plain Road, I shop in that area often, and I used to edit another community newspaper in that area), the members of Weicop thought I would have some ideas about how to deal with thee situations effectively as citizens and with their churches.

In particular, I spoke of the need to educate and inform people about the inner city, to see the many wonderful events, attractions, and people who live here, as opposed to the way the area is often portrayed, focusing on crime, panhandlers, and negative stereotypes. By encouraging people to visit the area and spend time there, these perceptions and fears can be changed.

I was also asked about my recent work with Action for Healthy Communities as a Community Animator in McCauley, as well as the initiatives of the McCauley Connects Coffeehouse and Church Street Fair that were developed as a result.

The people at Weicop were dedicated, concerned, and compassionate Edmontonians who truly care about what is going on in their community. Many of them support organizations that deal with poverty and housing issues financially and with resources such as donating clothing or bringing in groups from their churches and preparing meals. These are all important actions that provide immediate relief to those suffering on the streets.

However, alone these actions are not enough. I implored them to go further and investigate the underlying reasons why social problems are becoming more prevalent in their area, as money alone cannot solve the issues.

Here is exactly what I said. “Giving money to a problem is a Band-Aid. You’ve got to look at the underlying causes as to why it is happening, and deal with it on that level,” she said. “Band-Aids stop the bleeding, but they don’t heal the wound. Do what you can as an individual, as a church, and as a city to deal with these causes.”

The bottom line is, when it comes to charity, give not only of your money and resources, but give of yourselves. Strive to find those underlying social causes to whatever issue you are confronting, and engage in activism to make it better. It isn't easy, but it is the only way to truly catalyse change.

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