I have found that among its other benefits
giving liberates the soul of the giver.
– Maya Angelou
Sometimes dreams do come true. When we are children, we dream all the time. Dreams of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with a bag of toys and ushering in good cheer. We dream of Disneyland and riding the fastest roller coaster, arms held high, screaming in delight. We have nightmares too, but those do not last, because we know our parents will protect us from the ghosts and goblins and all of those monsters hiding underneath our beds. We close our eyes and return to paradise. Dreams of sugar plum fairies and soaring with the wind. We dream of all good things, because when we are children we believe that all things are good.
As adults, dreams do not go away. They become based on reality, however, no longer the Easter Bunny, but about the homeless family we passed on the way to work, that someday, they will have a place to sleep. We dream of cures to cancer and hiv. We dream of our soldiers coming home and their bodies and minds still in one piece. We have nightmares, just like our kids, but they are no longer monsters of our imaginations, but the ills that rule the day. There are now two homeless families, one more than the day before. And as we sink deeper into our sleep, before our eyes, the homeless population has multiplied and only the sadness in their eyes awakes us from our nightmares. We are sweating and we are chilled, but we are at home in our beds and thankful those families are not us. We say to ourselves, before we go back to sleep, Tomorrow, we will make a difference. We will lend a hand where needed, we will break bread and feed them, we will write our soldiers and wish them well, we will become a part of the solution, no longer complaining or worse yet, disappearing into our own salvation, and pretending that we do not see them, or convince ourselves, that those in need of a hand, are there by their own fruition, and that we are just one person anyway and one person cannot make a difference. We then turn over and comfortably go back to sleep and our hands that are meant to reach out and help, become invisible once again.
The Neighborhood Proudly Presents Our Featured Presentation
Nonprofits the invisible hands
set design by Nafiys Walters, aka Fran Daddy Education Works, Philadelphia, USA &
The Leaf Society, Namakkal district of Tamilnadu, India
soundtrack Angel by Damian Baran, Slovak Republic &
My Heart by IvySoul, Philadelphia, USA
In 2009, in the United States, The Tea Party movement came into existence and quickly rose into power. Love them, hate them, support them, ridicule them, they were for real. Cutting through the divisive rhetoric and angry tone, their mission was simple, to reduce the role of government in the lives of American citizens. Their rise was so fast and so overwhelming, that those who opposed them, were forced to match their level of intensity, bypassing civil discussion and common ground, jumping head first into polarizing elections and distrust all around. And while there exist extremist on both sides, who will never compromise, remaining forever the monster under the bed, I imagine, that the majority of the people, rather we say it out loud or even feign indifference, realize that the answer to our challenges lies somewhere in the middle. A reachable reality, yet it remains stagnated in our dreams.
The nonprofit community, in reference to those of a societal, charitable nature (the National Football League is a $9.5 billion per year nonprofit, not included in this discussion) whose sole purpose of existence is to lend support to their respective communities, be it in health, education or support after the wrath of a natural disaster. They are made up of people from every walk of life and include paid staff, an army of volunteers and philanthropist whose financial giving is what helps the nonprofit community stay afloat.
But there is a third, and just as vital piece of the equation, barely mentioned but always in the picture, and that is us. Every time we give a dollar to a homeless person on the streets, each time we buy someone who is hungry something to eat, or help an elderly person across the street, or give a newly released prisoner a job or a chance, that is charitable giving, and we must comprehend, that it makes a difference to those in need of help. And it may be that small show of support, that turns a life around, who may then go on to contribute, becoming a productive member of society.
Philadelphia, with a population of more than 1.5 million, is the 5th largest city in the United States. Filled with historical places and some of the most talented and inspirational people in the nation, grapples with its moniker as the City of Brotherly Love due to a soaring crime rate and a poverty level, nearly unrivaled throughout the nation, Executive Director, Bill Hart of Philadelphia RISE (The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services) is passionate when he states, “if Philadelphia is to return to world class status, then we must address our weakest link.” There was no condensation in his words or voice, simply addressing real challenges that exist in a city where 200,000 residents have a criminal history. RISE works with newly released inmates and the corporate community to give them a fighting chance by finding jobs, allowing them to maintain their self-respect and escape a life of crime. Although the program has the full support of the Mayor, Hart recognizes, that the city alone can not solve the challenges by itself.
Enter the nonprofits. The Pennsylvania Prison Society, understands the importance and value of maintaining family contact, so their contribution is providing transportation to the family members of the incarcerated, making reentry less of a family issue. But the real jewel is found in South Philadelphia. Don’t Shoot, headed by the dedicated Executive Director Ella Best is a community nonprofit of volunteers, that engages children as young as five years old in educational and athletic activities, believing that preventive measures offer the keys to a brighter future for her city and community. Don’t Shoot has served nearly 600 kids and Ella Best states, that they have not lost one to pregnancy or the juvenile court system. When asked how could her organization make an even bigger difference, she replied “Obtaining a facility so that we can serve more kids.”
When K. Sai Prathyusha arrived in the small village located in Namakkal district of Tamilnadu, India to intern for The Leaf Society, not only were there no toilets of any kind, the villagers were defecating in the open. Prone to all sorts of diseases, isolated, uneducated and living hand to mouth, there was little hope for the Periyaveppanatham Village community of living a better life. Overwhelmed, but not to be defeated, The Leaf Society reached out to the Indian government to support them in their endeavors of helping the community build sanitary facilities. But The Leaf Society did not stop there. Similar to Don’t Shoot, they realized if the community were to be given a future, that they would need to expand their program and began educating the children and protecting them from the abuse of child labor. The local government established a grant to assist in funding the nonprofit organization, realizing they must do their part if the village children were going to have a better life. When I asked K. Sai Prathyusha what was at the top of The Leaf Society’s wish list, she stated simply “Visibility.”
In reality, as committed as any government agency or dedicated as a nonprofit organization, without the committed volunteers, donors, supporters and community members, even the best designed plan will have little chance of success. So whichever side of the aisle we line up on, the halfs or the half nots, less government or more, able to give or in need, we all have something to offer. And if we ever want our nightmares to truly go away, we must not hide our hands of support, because they are visible either way.
– Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
The Neighborhood supports the efforts of Don’t Shoot and The Leaf Society.
Donations made will be divided equally.
The Neighborhood is an original, online art house collaborative of visual, recording, performance and written-word artists, delivering thought-provoking entertainment, in an all-inclusive forum, built on a foundation of peace.