Poverty makes people economically poor but not necessarily poor in spirit. It was good to see community spirit and action alive and kicking in the different Settlements of New York City.
We are virgin bloggers (in that we haven’t done this before) and are not sure how to blog. However, we do usually have something to say about most things and the New York learning trip is indeed worth talking about.
We took many noisy subways trips to some of the most interesting locations in the Bronx, North Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. We were welcomed warmly into a range of the most amazing community projects.
We met people in all the projects dedicated to the alleviation of poverty, inequality and discrimination, working within the context of turbulent political agendas (something we know only too well). Although they did this in different ways, in essence, they all delivered services where local people gain the wherewithal to change their lives and their communities.
We met a great bunch of people from UK organisations, others from Australia, Finland and Sweden and some from different parts of the US. Although these groups each had a different focus, all shared core values and principles.
What did we learn?
We were once again reminded of poverty and the existence of the poor across the world. ‘Poor’ is a simple defining word which we often allow ourselves to interpret as disadvantaged, hard to reach, disaffected etc. All of which are rightfully true but often do not quite capture the realities of poverty or hit the emotional spots which give us that extra push to do more.
Poverty is frequently determined as relative. However, if you experience poverty and are poor, it is never relative – it’s real. Poverty is as real in the Settlements of New York as it is in the neighbourhoods of Kimberworth Park
We were reminded about the contradictions that exist in the terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. Who is really rich and who is really poor? Poverty makes people economically poor but not necessarily poor in spirit. It was good to see community spirit and action alive and kicking in the different Settlements of New York City.
We found common cause in the struggles the Settlements face. Particularly how to address the complexities of working within a context of national political agendas, which frequently hinder cohesion, creating significant splits in community thinking and attitude.
We recognised the challenges in the experience, of ‘How do we overcome the impact of these agendas?’ and understood the sentiment expressed at one Settlement, in ‘How do we embrace our common humanity?’.
We saw the world for the small place it is, as if with new eyes. It is always good to be reminded of this. At the risk of being viewed as sentimental, hope for us springs eternal. We are heartened in knowing there are people across different continents, working in difficult circumstances, taking action to make their worlds better places to live, ensuring cohesion and solidarity exists across communities, countries and international boundaries.
Finally, we learned again the importance of hospitality and the sharing of food. We ate magnificently at the Projects, chicken rice and beans to be remembered forever.
Thanks again to everyone involved for this opportunity and for making this trip so meaningful and special.
Four Locality members visited New York in October to take part in a peer learning event with the International Federation of Settlements. The members were awarded grants through our Knowledge and Skills exchange, a funding programme open to all Community members. Locality is a part of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres, and we’re committed to widening access to international networking and exchanges for members.