Friday, August 28, 2009

Tyler Sharp photography

I love photography. I love looking at shots that have personality and perspective.

I was fascinated when I began talking to Tyler about his travels to Africa and listening to his stories of being nearly face to face with the animals...sometimes not in the most friendly of circumstances.

I finally got around to going to his webiste. I wish he had more pictures posted, but I am very impressed:

Tyler Sharp photography

But not only is he a talented photographer, he has a great blog that is a very good read:

If you're more into videos, here is his youtube site with different videos from different locations around the world:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Should moving out of public housing be the goal??

We've implemented a new strategy at our Roseland location. It's actually very exciting. As Central Dallas has grown, we have noticed new gaps in the system and things have been done to close those firm, health clinic, health classes, jobs programs, technology center, housing for homeless, etc.

But in our attempt to fill in those gaps, the programs often grew out of the need we noticed, but didn't always grow as an extension of currently existing programs. Though we all see each other at monthly staff meetings, it hasn't been easy to form the connections that could bring us together in a way that makes the move from program to program seamless for our friends and neighbors accessing different services.

We wanted to find a way for parents enrolled in the After-School Academy to connect with our programs at the Roseland Community Center, our LAW Center, and our jobs program, if needed. So, we created Operation Family Fresh Start.

Of course, one of the focuses is outcomes. What is the ultimate goal for the children and the families? We looked at what families told us they wanted for themselves as well as thought about what funders want to see when they donate their money.

That part wasn't difficult. We came to the conclusion that both want the same thing...get off public assistance. Families tell us they don't want to live in public housing. They want to own their own home. They want to live in a better area for their kids. Funders want to see self-sufficient people who don't have to depend on government assistance.

I grew up in a good, conservative home. I was taught to raise my eyebrow at someone on government assistance. Though now that I know people on government assistance and have a much different perspective, I still find myself wanting people to do more to be self-sufficient.

However, the more I think about that, the more I question it. Maybe our goal should, instead, be to keep people on government assistance for at least a generation. Let me explain.

People on government assistance have a very small income. From the studies I've seen, most people in the areas I work make under $10,000/year. They make under $10,000/year because they don't have the education level, or maybe the job skills, to get a higher paying, salaried job. They grew up in neighborhoods that didn't have quality education systems. I would guess these parents are much like their children who we have in the After-School Academy...91% of the time, the kids had never been to the places we took them on field trips. Exposure to things outside of their small community, exposure to diversity, exposure to different career opportunities, etc. is limited.

We've had parents move out of the housing development where our After-School Academy (ASA) operates and they all say the same thing after they leave, "There aren't after-school programs in our new neighborhood to enroll my kids in!" or, sometimes they're available, but not affordable. Though they may have moved to a "nicer" neighborhood, their children are still not getting what they need.

Is moving out the goal?? Or should our goal be keeping families in public housing...keeping families enrolled in the ASA throughout their entire 16 years of school (including college)--exposing them to career opportunities, teaching them to properly greet others, creating field trip opportunities, walking along side parents to offer parenting information and best practices of how to keep your child and your family healthy??

It seems to me that the goal should be to keep families in the public housing where they are currently and build up the services around them to offer holistic opportunities for the entire family. By providing all of the supportive, educational, health, and spiritual services for a child's entire lifetime, when that child becomes an adult, he/she will be stronger, more knowledgeable, and more prepared. As a result, those children will not need government assistance or help from social service organizations.

Sixteen years may seem like a long time to keep people on public assistance, but we're kidding ourselves if we think that's too long. It happens anyway. The people who try to get off, often are forced to go back because of circumstances where they simply weren't prepared enough financially, educationally, or mentally, to handle the challenges associated with raising a family, working, and paying full bills.

If sixteen years can change the direction of all of the future generations of that one parent, hasn't the investment been worth it?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Roseland back-to-school event

Friday was our back-to-school event at Roseland. Lots of smiles, face-painting, jump houses, praise dancing, miming, and food.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is God the cause of injustice?

Ever since I read Pedagogy of the Oppressed Pedagogy of the Oppressed several years ago, I have been a Paulo Freire fan.

I recently started reading Pedagogy of Hope. It's a heavy read, but there are little nuggets throughout that make it totally worth reading.

Freire believes in talking *with* the peasants in his home country of Brazil. He learned this lesson from a man who stood up and challenged him after one of his presumptuous talks to peasants explaining that they should not physically discipline their children.

Though that conversation is completely worth writing and repeating here, one that struck me was a conversation with a group of peasants who 1) thought Mr. Freire could provide them with all of the answers and 2) assumed that their life was rough because that was God's destiny for them.

In his book, he has this conversation with them:

"Fine," I had told them. "I know. You don't. But why do I know and you don't?"

"You know because you're a doctor, sir, and we're not."

"Right, I'm a doctor and you're not. But why am I a doctor and you're not?"

"Because you've gone to school, you've read things, studied things, and we haven't."

"And why have I been to school?"

"Becasue your dad could send you to school. Ours couldn't."

"And why couldn't your parents send you to school?"

"Becasue they were peasants like us."

"And what is 'being a peasant'?"

"It's not having an education...not owning anything...working from sun to sun...having no rights...having no hope."

"And why doesn't a peasant have any of this?"

"The will of God."

"And who is God?"

"The Father of us all."

"And who is a father here this evening?"

Almost all raised their hands, and said they were.

I looked around the group without saying anything. Then I picked out one of them and asked him, "How many children do you have?"


"Would you be willing to sacrifice two of them, and make them suffer so that the other one could go to school, and have a good life, in Recife? Could you love your children that way?"


"Well, if you," I said, "a person of flesh and bones, could not commit an injustice like that--how could God commit it? Could God really be the cause of these things?"


"No. God isn't the cause of all of this."