Giving Back to the Community: Educate to Stop the Cycle of Poverty
by jroqu1 on April 25, 2014 - 11:06pm
Non-profit organization: Centre Saint Vincent DePaul
The practice of raising funds in order to support social service programs is a complex process. Most nonprofit organizations can benefit from economic assistance as they strive to meet civic needs in their local communities. As one contemplates making a contribution to a specific cause, whether it is through time or money, it may be difficult to decide which organization has the most need coupled with the most practical business model to produce positive change that can be reflected in the society.
In the case of Centre Saint Vincent DePaul, their main goal is to end the cycle of poverty, and their business model reflects various ways they try to remedy the issue. They assist their community by providing direct aid to the economically and socially disadvantaged members through food aid, discounted clothing and furniture, educational resources, disaster support, and moral encouragement through the dedication of over 800 volunteers, dispersed between their various “service points,” or service centers. The idea is that they are able to help the destitute improve their temporary conditions and maintain their dignity in the process and pride themselves on helping anyone, without discrimination, who may be in need. Founded in 1846 by Saint Vincent DePaul, a devout Catholic, the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul of Quebec (SSVPQ) offers many programs and services essential to their fight against poverty and social exclusion under the Christian assumptions of charity, fraternity, respect, and justice.
The organization is operated by member volunteers, known as “Vincentians,” who are essentially full-time personnel who are committed to engaging in meetings, fund-raisers, and other necessary activities of SSVPQ. They are defined as people of good will who center their inspiration on the thought of Saint Vincent DePaul and his charitable work with strong commitments to relieve those who suffer, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, social status, health condition, gender, or political opinion. They promote their dignity through Christian values and the principles that guide the organization and stand united in the fight against poverty. SSVPQ accepts and is grateful for any part-time volunteers, no matter how small of a personal contribution they can make.
SSVPQ is five percent subsidized by the government for the program trailers, which are in essence service centers on wheels that travel through the impoverished localities of Quebec helping troubled youth by offering free mental health counseling, meals, and referral services. The non-profit establishment participates in an annual holiday fund-raiser that collects approximately $1.8 million per year. These funds are invested in food aid, food vouchers, disaster relief, emotional counseling, and more than 20,000 “Christmas hampers” that are distributed to needy families so that their children are able to experience Christmas on similar terms to more advantaged children. Many resources are received through public donations and through religious and business offerings and allocated between the many social services Centre Saint Vincent DePaul offers.
The Bonne Minne Operation Program was created by SSVPQ to provide educational resources in the form of supplies, scholarships, and monetary assistance to low-income families who would otherwise be unable to invest in the education of their children. There are three components of the program, designed to encourage retention and counter the drop-out rates that are significant in impoverished communities. SSVPQ apportions approximately $100,000 in school supplies to disadvantaged families, thereby helping close to 2,000 students in 400 schools.
Prior to introducing the three components, it is imperative to emphasize the value of the Bonne Minne Program and any other social service program that makes youth education a priority. It is my personal opinion that the value of an education is often underestimated; after all societal burdens often fall on the shoulders of the educated. Therefore, I am especially passionate about this particular program and will employ Max Weber to help strengthen my case.
Component one is described as “support to school.” Financial assistance is directly given to the families of disadvantaged youth based on student school records that qualify them as such. Families use the funds to be able to purchase school supplies, or any related item conducive to learning. Additionally, service points are given a provision of $25 coupons that are redeemable at local pharmacies that they pass out to needy families so that they may use it towards pens, pencils, paper, folders, and the like.
Component two is “scholarship perseverance,” that awards scholarship money to low-income students who demonstrate a determination to succeed by maintaining decent marks and continuing to thrive despite the odds. This component is designed to encourage that quality in other students who are in the same economic situation. Awards are in the amount of $250 and $500.
Component three is called “Project D ‘CAMP,’” that aims to reward students who have successful school years by helping parents who would be otherwise unable to afford their child’s enrollment in a summer camp. This allows the student to enjoy recreational activities such as camping and swimming with peers as a reward for their educational attainment. Summer camps are often known for teaching valuable life skills and lessons that provide a type of extra-curricular education.
With all the services that Society Saint Vincent DePaul provides, it would seem that they would be able to make significant improvements in the communities that need it most. The ultimate goal is to end the cycle of poverty, however perhaps focusing their resources on the educational aspect would make the most impact on the goal. It may be beneficial to allocate more financial contributions to the Bonne Minne Program in order to promote educational attainment amongst the poor youth populations, not only because all efforts can be concentrated there, but also because it can become more recognized as a leading cause of impoverished conditions in societies today. When a society can fathom the negative impact poverty has on it overall, efforts may be more collective to improve upon it.
Sociologist Max Weber maintains a theory that individuals are motivated by the meanings they assign to their objective experiences with each other and in society, and as such, their behavior is relative to their understanding of any given situation. According to Weber, there are two types of understanding that provokes social action within individuals. The first, actual understanding, is obtained through mere observation of a circumstance. The second, with more relevance to this cause, is explanatory understanding. This type of understanding discovers the motives underlying the conduct observed in a specific circumstances (Secher: 1962); in this case the contexts of poverty.
It can be argued that most people understand poverty as a concrete reality and an unfortunate social phenomena. While not everyone shares the same levels of poverty, everyone is subjectively affected by its presence. Society Saint Vincent DePaul recognizes it as a concern and aims to end its cyclical pattern through its social action mission, however if the organization restructured around education as the leading cause of poverty, or more purposely, the way to end poverty, it may have more success in its efforts.
Throughout its history, SSVPQ has organized around their Christian values as established by its founder centuries ago. The collective behaviors of the members are a combination of what Weber would call value-rationally driven and guided by tradition. The actions of this non-profit establishment is guided by a conscious and communal belief in their religious values, almost to a fault in that it is compelled to help the destitute through a number of approaches—food aid, low-cost retail goods, and counseling services among others. Shifting to what Weber identifies as an instrumentally rational type of reasoning may help in that their actions can be guided by deliberate reflection on their resources as compared to their ultimate goal of ending the perpetuation of poverty. Analyzing their means to get to their end may mean downsizing their social programs so that more resources can be geared towards student learning. This way, more educational opportunities amongst the disadvantaged could be realized. Greater investments in student knowledge would empower them to essentially provide for themselves and their families in the future so that the potential of ending the cycle of poverty is realized.
Through this model, positive change could be a feasible, particularly when communities begin to realize the benefit of educating others has on them. Keeping in mind the core values of SSVPQ, when people of all socioeconomic, ethnic, and political backgrounds unite collectively on the issue, fundamental improvements in destitution are probable.
Secher, H.P. (1962). Max Weber: Basic Concepts in Sociology. Westport, Connecticut:
Greenwood Press Publishers.