Take The Challenge

iStock_000010564802XXLargeBy Lee Soda, Executive Director

In 1989 I was the lead teacher in the preschool room of a very progressive downtown daycare, the staff were young new grads, energetic, enthusiastic and always ready to advocate for more childcare spaces, increase the poor sad salaries of early childhood educators and always, always joined in the fight for the eradication of child poverty all the while striving for universal daycare for all families.  I believed I really truly believed I would be part of making all that happen.     Well now fast forward to 2014 and last week was the 25th anniversary of Ed Broadbent’s compelling speech to find a solution for the forgotten children living in extreme poverty amidst all the affluence in our country.   He talked about the horror and shame we should all feel and that this (child poverty) must be ended, the applause was deafening and Parliament stood up and unanimously pledged to end child poverty.

I no longer work in the childcare field, I’m far from being a new grad, and I definitely don’t have as much energy and unfortunately have limited enthusiasm for a fight now pushing toward a third decade.   Eradicating child poverty, ending child poverty, pledging to end child poverty……what are we calling now?   Shameful and horrendous, that’s what we should be calling it.   Let me make one thing perfectly clear, there is no such thing as child poverty, its family poverty, it’s just overall poverty!   Our children are poor because Mom and Dad are unemployed or quite often underemployed, our children don’t walk into food banks alone, they’re walking in with their parents, grandparents and extended families because there are multiple families living in one cramped unit, paying market value rent in apartment buildings in desperate need of repairs but cannot afford anything else.   Children are going to school hungry and without packed lunches because the cupboards and refrigerator at home is empty, not because the children didn’t get around to buying groceries but because there wasn’t any money left over after Mom and Dad had to pay rent.   Folks, let’s face it; we have a HUGE problem on our hands.

I work for a community based multi service agency and we aim to assist those most marginalized and vulnerable within the many communities in Scarborough.  The folks I talked about, to me they’re not statistics, to me they’re the people that my staff and I work with everyday and we know their stories, their struggles, their hopes and dreams for a better life.

At Agincourt Community Services Association we have many of the programs and services that offer the families in our communities a hand up to combat the struggles and barriers they face daily.   Our food bank serves thousands of individuals yearly, community gardens and kitchens,  we offer safe, accessible afterschool programs for children, we work with homeless and marginally housed individuals off the street and into stable housing, ongoing  supports for our youth and their families, programs that promote health and wellness for our community’s isolated seniors, settlement services for our newest members of society and at the core of all the work we do is resident engagement all in the name of building stronger healthier communities where people in our community can become better educated, better informed, better connected all in the hopes of, keeping young people in school and encouraging post education, working towards getting decent housing and getting employment or better employment so people can walk into a grocery store and put whatever they want into their carts.

It’s 2014 and the City of Toronto is embarking on city wide consultations asking residents of Toronto to give their input on how we together need to work towards reducing poverty….I would like us to challenge ourselves, challenge our political leaders, all levels of government to aim higher and come up with a poverty elimination strategy.  I challenge each of us to stand up and have our opinions, thoughts and ideas heard.   Come on, get up, let’s go and have our voices heard.   Go to the link below and say your piece https://cityoftoronto.fluidsurveys.com/s/prs/ come to ACSA and join in a conversation, let’s never give up an opportunity to be heard.

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