To view Part One, click here.
As a long-time member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul here in Canada I’ve been a member of a number of conferences and have always enjoyed the conference meeting with my fellow Vincentians.
However, if there is one negative thing I have experienced at conference meetings, which I imagine many of us have, is when the discussion is about those persons we help who seem to be trapped in the hopeless cycle of poverty. Questions such as why can’t they find a job? Why don’t they show some ambition? Or remarks such as they are taking advantage of us. They are using the system. They never even say thanks when we do help them.
I wonder if we would be this judgemental if we knew the whole story that has resulted in a person or family needing to come to us for help. This is where taking time to listen, to understand the factors that have led to their current way of life and surviving is essential. This is where the issue of inter-generational trauma can become a major factor in inter-generational poverty and where we see families that have lived and experienced poverty for several generations.
Perhaps it would help our membership to receive some education about trauma, its factors and results, in order to be better equipped in understanding and helping persons in need. We are becoming quite good at various training webinars about the issues related to poverty and the need for systemic change and advocacy. Imagine how much more informed and effective we could be in empathizing with those we serve, if we knew how trauma can affect that person’s mental, emotional and even physical well-being.
I do not propose we all need to become psychologists, but if we could at least have a broader understanding of trauma and how we may be able to find and offer more assistance, we could enhance our ability to giving some hope to the hopeless, giving them the opportunity to regain a sense of dignity and self-esteem.
Perhaps the next time we hear the negative comments mentioned earlier we can suggest or even challenge our fellow Vincentians to look at ways we can do even more.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.