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Developing Resilience

We live in turbulent times. Climate change and resulting natural disasters, war and violence, and economic duress are examples of trauma that leave lasting and sometimes, insurmountable consequences. Ordinary Magic, a book by noted child development expert Dr. Ann S. Masten, University of Minnesota, focuses on ways children exposed to trauma in early life, including an acute lack of economic mobility, can and have become successful adults.

Masten spoke at Interfaith Action’s Learning Community event on March 13. Learning Community events are a key component of Interfaith Action’s new program Opportunity St. Paul. Opportunity Saint Paul harnesses the transformative work of volunteers to strengthen economic mobility and reduce poverty St. Paul. This unique program matches dedicated volunteers with pre-selected nonprofits that have proven records of effectively addressing barriers to economic mobility. Daily Work is one those nonprofits.

Masten talked about the lifelong effects in the lives of children from trauma such as poverty, maltreatment or neglect, inequality and injustice, toxic stress and the biological embedding of such adversity; things that many of the job seekers at Daily Work have faced or continue to face as they search for gainful employment. 

Resilience is the X factor that helps some children lead normal lives despite early adversity. Masten defines resilience as: “the capacity of a system to adapt successfully to challenges that threaten its function, life or development”.  She says that resilience is a fluid concept; it is constantly changing and is dependent on the support systems present in each person’s life.

Resilience is not a built-in trait. It is learned. 

Masten’s research finds that there are fundamental adaptive systems that can protect human development. These include positive family influences, a diversity of educational opportunities, and the presence of positive role models in various settings, including reading programs, one-on-one mentorships, and after-school programs that are equal parts nurturing and challenging.

The ability to rebound from normal stress, as well as unspeakably difficult circumstances, is due to a combination of factors that all of us can help influence. “In numerous case reports and studies, resilience is associated with hope, optimism, faith, and belief that life has meaning,” Masten states in her book.

That’s what Daily Work is all about: restoring hope and optimism through nurturing relationships and access to education and work opportunities...which also helps job seekers become more resilient. When you invest in Daily Work, you make it possible for job seekers to discover educational opportunities, employment opportunities, and connections to people who care about their welfare and success; the key ingredients for a healthy and thriving life.

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