By Sarah Ochieng
As a client advocate, my responsibilities include: participating in programs to support the work of the Social Services Department of SVDP, service delivery for people requesting assistance during walk-in hours and on home visits, and building helping relationships with people in need so that they recognize and utilize their personal strengths and resources in problem-solving.
My time on Monday and Thursday mornings is spent with our neighbors. I assist the social services department by providing basic needs assistance to our neighbors, including providing them with clothing, birth certificates, state ID vouchers, and public transportation tokens. During this time, I have the opportunity to engage with our neighbors on a personal level and get a deeper understanding of their living situations and life experiences.
On Thursday afternoon, I participate in rent and utility decision meetings, where client advocates, including myself, read through rent and utility applications and choose the top applications (based on need and sustainability). The next process includes presenting a client’s case and advocating the need for them to receive the assistance they applied for.
Getting Ahead Coordinator:
The 16-week Getting Ahead program helps individuals to build their personal sustainable action plans to get out of poverty. As a Getting Ahead coordinator, I support all program-related needs including: coordinating logistics, recruiting participants, facilitating training sessions, working with individual participants, training additional facilitators and mentors, creating an ongoing relationship with neighbors in need, supporting the work of our area Conferences, and developing opportunities for SVDP to address systemic change.
We currently have two ongoing Getting Ahead workshops. One group is held at St. Martin of Tours Church in Cheviot, Ohio and has a total of eight participants, while the other group (with a total of eleven participants) is held at Mt. Healthy Christian Church in Mt. Healthy, Ohio.
Day of Workshop
The Getting Ahead class begins at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. Since the foundation of Getting Ahead is co-investigation, both participants and facilitators are investigators. We investigate poverty from different perspectives and discuss how it affects our communities. We define poverty as the extent to which an individual does without resources.
We view People in poverty not as the problem, but as problem solvers. Not as needy, but the needed. We need them to give us relevant information to fix poverty as they are the experts of their own community. Aside from the economic factors, we also consider other causes of poverty in our investigation. During this analysis, we find that poverty is not just about the financial inadequacies. It is much deeper!
Among other things, we also talk about bonding capital – those people that we hold closest to us – and analyze how we can use our bonding capital as resources to create a support system that can comfort us in times of need. Most importantly, we support and encourage one another.
I cherish my role as a Getting Ahead coordinator as it gives me an opportunity to know my neighbors on a personal level and hear their perspectives on ways to improve the communities we live in. I also get to see them improve their situation and take action in their lives, create their future story by setting goals and working toward those goals. I have been able to form strong relationships with the investigators and have shared memories, laughter, and experiences.