October 17 marks the International Day for Eradication of Poverty (IDEP). The United Nations declared this day to honour the millions of people suffering from poverty, and their daily courage and strength to survive. IDEP is an opportunity to acknowledge the struggle of people living in poverty and to remind us of our shared responsibility to eradicate poverty.
In Windsor-Essex County, just like around the world, thousands of children and youth are experiencing poverty or are stuck without a clear path to success. In some local neighbourhoods, as many as 1 in 3 children are growing up in low-income households. It is heartbreaking to know that, without intervention or new solutions, the vast majority of these children may experience poverty later in life as well.
Poverty is not a subject that most people find easy to talk about. It can bring up uncomfortable feelings of guilt or sadness or – on occasion – anger. Some people even wonder why people can’t just “pull up their bootstraps” and make a better life. Doing so is not as easy as it may seem.
“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not” is a phrase often used to illustrate the need for equitable solutions for poverty reduction. Equity and equality are not the same. If every member of a community receives an equal amount of support (financial, medical, educational, etc.), you will still see uneven outcomes due to circumstances beyond someone’s control. People living in poverty experience unique challenges, and more supports and resources are necessary to remove these barriers and create opportunities.
Eradicating poverty requires systemic change. Over the past few years, residents and local leaders came together to support a common goal – to align local resources to ensure that the most vulnerable, and the most promising members of the community – children and youth – succeed in their education, career and life. This partnership is called ProsperUs. United Way has a unique role in this work – to provide the structure necessary to create, operate and analyze programs, and raise funds to support the community’s Cradle to Career (C2C) strategy. C2C is creating data-backed solutions to provide vital supports to children from birth to employment.
If we want to change the trajectory for children living in priority neighbourhoods of West Windsor, Downtown Windsor and Leamington, we need to focus on education, the clearest pathway to success and out of poverty. Each and every child deserves the support they need to realize their potential, regardless of the neighbourhood they grow up in.
We all have the power to be part of the solution. What will your part be?
Lorraine Goddard, CEO United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County