by Megan Ryan, 2014-2015 Rochester Youth Year Fellow
There are many people in this world that have thoughts on solving poverty. In Rochester, I have witnessed many individuals in all different positions discuss poverty–where it stems from, how it impacts the community, and what should be done to make positive changes. Our city has community organizations making positive changes every day.
From my experiences I have witnessed community organizations help individuals and families solve problems and take steps to alleviate distressful situations. People working to climb out of poverty are often using several community programs to resolve many different issues. Often people that have multiple problem areas feel overwhelmed and find it easier to give up rather than work to fix the issues. Unfortunately, it is too often that individuals begin feeling hopeless and stuck in a downward spiral.
The organizations with which I am affiliated include Rochester Youth Year (RYY) and the Center for Youth. The RYY fellowship is an AmeriCorps*VISTA-sponsored program that places recent graduates of Rochester area colleges in community-based organizations to create and expand projects that address challenges the city’s youth and families encounter. RYY is one program that is able to cause significant changes in the lives of thousands of people in Rochester every year. The other RYY fellows that I have been working with this year are very determined and passionate about their projects. I feel lucky to know every one of these amazing people, and I know we are all making positive changes in the organizations we are serving.
The Center for Youth is an organization that young people can turn to when looking to explore, understand, and deal with issues of importance to them. The Center for Youth has many programs and services including, school-based, prevention counseling, prevention education, teen court, and residential housing. The overall mission of the Center for Youth states “all Center services are rooted in, and delivered with the knowledge that youth want to, and can, take responsibility for their life choices.” This organization is constantly fighting to end poverty by assisting youth in our community with their voluntary choice to change the current negativity in their lives in order to grow into a better adult. Once they leave their past mistakes and experiences behind the youth can successfully contribute to the community in the future instead of becoming part of the poverty cycle.
The Center’s residential program that I am serving with is the Crisis Nursery. This program is a temporary child care service offered to families that are going through a crisis. We often encounter families dealing with medical emergencies, homelessness, incarceration, mental health needs, domestic violence, and many others. The parents that we serve have no one trustworthy to turn to for help with anything, let alone their children. The Crisis Nursery is the only program that provides free emergency child care in the state of New York. We are helping people become self-sufficient, independent, mentally and physically healthy, safe, and engaged in improving the lives of themselves and their children. While serving at this organization I continuously experience the immediate gratification knowing that I take part in the program’s ability to help those that reach out to us. I witness parents saying that our program is a miracle and a true blessing on a daily basis. Being able to see the sign of relief on their faces when they know their children will be safe is priceless and makes the work I do behind the scenes worth it.
My experiences this year while being involved with Rochester Youth Year, AmeriCorps*VISTA, and the Center for Youth have been truly life-changing. While there are several working plans to end poverty, knowing that hundreds of organizations help those who struggle little by little proves to me that community-based leadership improves lives and fights against poverty.
As long as individuals and organizations continue to provide hope and guidance to those in need it is possible to alleviate poverty piece by piece and person by person. It is understood that there will never be an overnight fix, but with many successes and learning from failures along the way, I do believe that leaders in our community can solve poverty.