Uninspired, but Educated

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I’m not feeling well-inspired these days. Life’s been rough for weeks now.

It’s challenging to live with a chronic illness, as many that do, know so well. It robs you of your energy. It robs you of your abilities. It robs you of your freedom.

Yet, there are positive aspects to the experience of disease. It’s taught me about what’s really important in life. It’s taught me about gratitude. It’s taught me that even though I don’t have a post-secondary degree in anything, I still have much to offer.

One of the experiences RA disease is giving me is the opportunity to live in poverty. Living in poverty has forced me to reach out to agencies and groups in the community.

When I worked full-time, the network of community supports just wasn’t on my radar at all.

I had no idea that people on social assistance received $599 per month for housing and food and the people on disability received $1,064. Nor, did I know that the affordable housing wait-list is six years long and the majority of the food available at the food banks is either canned or packaged.

Living in poverty is an educational experience.

As well as being educational, it is giving me an opportunity to participate in community work and to develop skills in areas such as advocacy, public speaking and writing articles.

In addition, I’m learning about the various levels of governments and the procedures in which they operate.

I’m mostly involved with a group called, Awareness of Low Income Voices – ALIV(e). We have a website and a new blog.

ALIV(e) is a collaborative group of individuals dedicated to bringing an active and positive voice to individuals and families who are experiencing or who have experienced poverty level living in the Waterloo Region.

ALIV(e)’s goal is to educate the public about the impact of poverty on peoples’ lives, to inform the public about changes in policy as it applies to those who live at poverty level, and to share information on available resources that may not be well known to the general public.

On the blog’s “About” page we state;

Poverty (for the most part) is not a choice. Many of the people who live in poverty experience challenges and barriers that create obstacles to rise above their situations.

Societal attitudes, social policy issues and systematic barriers, as well as low wages, disabilities, psychological or emotional factors, illness, single-parent families are among the challenges faced by those who live in poverty.

My personal story is an example of how someone who once had a full-time job ended up in poverty through a debilitating illness.

Others end up in poverty due to mental health issues, undiagnosed learning disabilities, psychological and emotional disturbances or disability due to accident.

All want to work, but find it hard to do so without considerable outside supports which, by the way, are non-existent.

From time to time, I hear comments from those not living on social assistance. Some of the comments are things like; they’re lazy, they get “free money”, they’re ripping off the system, they’re deadbeats…

I have to say, this makes me sad.

The majority living on assistance are truly needy individuals who deal with significant challenges.

It’s equally sad to see that when governments have cuts to make, they tend to target the social assistance programs. Why? Because they can.

After all, it’s the poor. They have no high-powered lobby activists to make deals on their behalf. They have no bargaining power.

It seems, quite frankly, the poor don’t have rights.

It seems, they don’t have the right to live with dignity and respect. It seems, they don’t have the right to a hopeful future.

Poverty is growing in cities and rural areas all over the world. Yet, many of us want to ignore it because it doesn’t affect us. Many of us still have our jobs.

It is wonderful to have jobs and hopefully governments will help create more jobs. The more jobs, the better. But, let us not forget and leave behind those who deal with significant challenges and barriers to employment.

I urge people to look into the social assistance policies in their cities and countries to see if they will adequately meet the needs of one who is unable to work.

And if one is fortunate enough to “have it all covered”, maybe rallying around those who “don’t have it all covered” will be the push that governments need to create policies that provide adequate safety nets for those in need.

Please visit the ALIV(e) blog to read my article, “Exploring Social Welfare Abroad”.

Thank you very much for reading and leaving your comments. Wishing all a wonderful weekend!

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14 thoughts on “Uninspired, but Educated

  1. Thanks for this post, Marianne. There are so many people who want to work, but can’t for some reason. And we can’t sit back and judge from our own perspective because we can’t see all the issues.

    Years ago, when I was receiving assistance (and hating it), I remember one day when it dawned on me that they don’t make it easy to get out of the system. I had a part-time job, but the dept scheduled my 6-month benefits interview without even asking me. I was supposed to take off work for an interview so I could continue getting benefits? That really irritated me.

    There were income limits to qualify, of course, but they were (are) so low that there’s a huge crack to fall through. Too much money to qualify, not enough to live on. Sometimes the benefits system itself can be an obstacle to climbing out of poverty.

    • You are so right, Nancy. Once you’re in poverty, it’s extremely hard to get out, especially when one is dealing with illness and other challenges to employment. In our community, there are a few excellent community groups that help out, but they only provide a band-aid solution for the short-term and they are maxed out. We need government support with these issues and I know that our community is not the only one dealing with this. Thanks so much for your comment, Nancy. 🙂

  2. blessings, Marianne. I truly truly feel for you. Although I have not experienced an illness like yours, we’ve touched the edges through Barry’s challenges the last two years. If he had not been able to work, we would have possibly been in your shoes. All of us are a step away from receiving assistance. Hugs and continued healing on all levels, my friend.

    • You are so right, Kathy. All of us are a step away from receiving assistance and that’s why it’s so important for us to work at changing the system so that if or when someone falls there is a safety net with adequate levels of support and rehabilitation so that one can get back up. As it stands, there isn’t enough support from the majority of the general public when it comes to social assistance programs. Somehow these programs need to be adequately funded and viewed as for the benefit of the People, all people. Thank you so much for your input, Kathy. I really appreciate this dialogue. It is giving me so many ideas for my group work. 🙂

  3. I agree; going through a lifelong battle with severe skin issues, I learned a lot about patience, and using natural healing techniques to overcome everything–even though it almost took thirty years 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Jon. It sounds like your experience is something I want to learn more about. My automatic state is instant gratification; when I don’t see immediate results, I move on to something else. This way of being is getting me no where, except round and round in circles. I look forward to visiting your blog, Jon. 🙂

  4. Marianne, thank you for writing about this. I have been on disability for a while now, because of my chronic illnesses, and I still feel uncomfortable telling people that I am because of the stigma and attitudes. It only adds to the stress and severity of a chronic illness to have to worry about these things, but what can we do?

    The ALIV(e) group sounds very interesting – we will have to talk about it! I’m not in the Waterloo region, but I wonder if there is a similar group in my area.

    Thank you again for talking about such a difficult but necessary subject.

    Barbara

  5. Hey Marianne,

    Thanks for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you. This line reached out to me – “Living in poverty is an educational experience.” With every experience we do learn something, don’t we? There is so much judgement towards people who need assistance and it is so unfair. Hopefully your life will become easier as time goes on. I hope so!

    • Thanks Cathy! You are so right. Since becoming ill and being involved with the community group, Awareness of Low Income Voices, I truly understand why we need social programs. I see firsthand the challenges that people have and how much support they require to find and maintain a suitable long-term sustainable job, never mind that one can send out a hundred resumes a month and not get one reply. I think that the biggest slap in the face to these people is from our own provincial government who seems to think these people should live on $599 per month for housing and food and say there isn’t enough money to raise the rates $100, but yet continue to negotiate for higher salaries, benefits and pensions for themselves. The good news is that I see a shift beginning to happen. The topic of income inequality is beginning to get attention. Poverty and income inequality groups provincially and nationally are collaborating together. 2013 will be an interesting year in this area.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Cathy. I really appreciate the tweet as well.

  6. *Hugs* It makes me sad, too, that people say the things they do about the poor, and that governments find the social programs the easiest to cut when those should be the hardest and last to cut. Last year (I think) I read the book “The Way We Never Were” which addresses some of these issues with statistics showing how social programs can make a huge difference not just for individuals but for society as a whole (society being only as good as its poorest people and/or how they care for them).

    • It’s kind of up and down, Kathy. Some days are good and others not so good. Overall though, I’m feeling better than I was and that’s why I’ve been more active doing advocacy work in my community recently. Thanks very much for checking in on me, Kathy. I really appreciate it!

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