Angela* holds her squirmy 3-year-old daughter on her lap while simultaneously balancing her smartphone with one hand. She’s attending a Zoom video call I’m leading because Angela is a participant of the New Beginnings Support Program (NBSP). At a quick glance, it’s easy to assume that Angela isn’t invested in our program. She was 10 minutes late, she’s wearing a dirty sweatshirt, her hair is tied back in a greasy ponytail, and periodically she vanishes from the screen.
As children, we’re taught to share and take care of each other. When and why does this change? Our society rewards those who take care of themselves first, and then help others. They give us that same message about oxygen masks prior to takeoff on planes. I don’t agree with this sentiment though. What if while we took care of ourselves, we showed others how to do the same? Can we not do both simultaneously? Even during periods of uncertainty others can learn so much from us when we are vulnerable and share our personal struggles. We often share the same goals, like providing the best care we can for our children.
New Beginnings Support Program
Angela isn’t looking for a handout. She’s not even looking for a hand-up. She’s fully aware her dreams require hard work, dedication and she’s willing to make the effort for both herself and her young child. That’s how community charities, like NBSP, make a difference.
Our program provides exposure to learning opportunities that have never been presented to our participants.
By providing a safe place to listen and learn, and then leading by example, individuals like Angela are offered the opportunity to create a roadmap to a self-sustaining future. Participants in our program work with life coaches, acquire an education, interview for an internship, and work towards a full-time career. They’re also provided a safe place to ask questions and receive training on topics many of us take for granted, like how to dress in a professional setting, or on workplace etiquette.
We All Need to Belong
What we don’t see is how important the NBSP has become to Angela, or the effort she’s made to attend my training session. After a full day of work at a local grocery store, then caring for her daughter as a single parent, Angela stays up late to complete her homework assignment. It’s part of a business course she’s attending through one of our partners, an accredited post-secondary institution. Angela is also a domestic abuse survivor. Even though she’s exhausted Angela struggles to sleep, her mind always racing. In the morning, Angela prepares breakfast and spreads various craft activities on her coffee table. She hopes the spread and the TV are enough to keep her daughter distracted while she attends my session. I’m also not aware that at times Angela struggles to see my PowerPoint slides; her tiny smartphone screen is broken and the weak wifi signal causes the video to drop sporadically. Yet, Angela carries on.
The opportunity for an education, career, and the ability to provide for her daughter is why Angela continues in our program, but knowing she’ll be missed if she doesn’t show up for our session is what drives her.
We all want to belong, and this is the first time Angela feels she is part of a community.
If we believe we do not have the capacity to care for individuals like Angela, and their families, we cannot fault them for seeking out a sense of belonging wherever they are familiar. In our training session, Angela confesses to me and the other participants that she feels the most alone when the world is in a period of uncertainty. She’s never comfortable asking for guidance, but when everyone is already worried about themselves, Angela doesn’t want to be a further burden.
We All Have Value
No life is a burden, which is why community charities like New Beginnings Support Program need to exist. They especially need to exist, with our grassroot outreach, during challenging economic times because they are what revitalize already under-represented communities.
As a trainer with NBSP, I never stop learning from our participants, and this is important to note because they offer value to me, too.
There are many ways you can support NBSP. Consider your network – who do you know who might have items to donate in kind? Or is there someone you know who might benefit as a participant? Could you sacrifice a couple of coffees and donate to our virtual event, “xxxx”? We also appreciate word-of-mouth awareness, and/or sharing information about NBSP on your social media feeds. To grassroot charities like NBSP and our participants, even the smallest action has a large impact.
*name changed to protect the privacy of our participants