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Why it’s Important to Fight the Stigma Attached to Poverty: Part II The Importance of Affirmations

By Maya Lehmann

My first blog on this issue talked about Julia Dinsmore’s poem, “My Name is Not ‘Those People.’” If you haven’t had a chance, I encourage you to look back at that blog and read her poem. In that blog, I introduced the poem and now, I’d like to elaborate on the fundamental wisdom Dinsmore brings to life in it.

One of Daily Work’s core values is dignity. At Daily Work, we acknowledge and honor the fundamental value of all people. We pledge to create and to maintain an environment that respects diverse traditions, heritages, and experiences. Inherent in this, to use Dinsmore's words, is truly seeing people as the solution and not the problem.

At Daily Work, we fight the stigma attached to poverty by seeing our job seekers as "people" first.  And I don’t mean we should dismiss culture, race, gender, or any other identity that someone may have. I mean embracing each person's uniqueness and celebrating it. I mean truly believing in and seeing the strengths and gifts each person brings with them.

Affirming people for their strengths and reminding them of their assets is foundational to their growth and success. For example, one job seeker that I work with spent 10 years in a refugee camp before moving to the United States recently. Right now, he is taking English classes, Nursing Assistant classes, intensely looking for jobs, and taking care of his wife, two young kids, and a newborn baby.

Can you imagine dealing with all of this? Could we all be as diligent, and for so long, in a similar situation? How would he even go on if he did not believe in himself or a better future? By affirming his strengths, he leaves Daily Work with more confidence in himself and more hope that he will find a good job and be able to care for his family, which is why he came here in the first place.

Daily Work is here to meet people where they are and work with them to get to where they want to be. Though we often identify barriers that are in the way of each job seeker gaining employment, we do not define them by their problems. We look at each person as a whole person, complex and with many layers. Rather than telling job seekers what we think is best, we create a mutual partnership where we focus on collaboration. We provide support and resources while they tell us what they need and what they are willing or able to do to accomplish their goals.

Too often, society defines people experiencing poverty in a negative way, or tries to create distance between “us” and “them.” We need to close this gap by affirming people for their strengths and truly embracing those strengths ourselves. Focusing on deficits and blaming leads to less self-confidence and discouragement; whereas, affirmations and strengths lead to hope and self-efficacy.

Don't we all want communities where people believe they can succeed, achieve their goals, and meaningfully contribute to society? If more people are able to contribute to society in a meaningful way, our entire society will improve. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone said, “When we all do better, we all do better.”

Thank you so much for your support of Daily Work. You are helping to reduce the stigma against people experiencing poverty. You are empowering people to become self-sufficient which will eventually improve society as a whole. You are allowing all the wonderful voices in our midst to sing and be heard.



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