OpenDoors of Asheville works to eliminate child poverty as the number of children in poverty rises across North CarolinaPress release from OpenDoors of Asheville:
With help from OpenDoors of Asheville, a not-for-profit organization based in Asheville, NC, children in WNC are being uplifted from multigenerational poverty through multifaceted community-based initiatives.
“Despite the challenges of learning differences and deep poverty,” explains OpenDoors Executive Director Jennifer Ramming, “children who receive the support they deserve and need can thrive and make our communities stronger. That’s why OpenDoors works hand-in-hand with parents and caregivers to advocate for children, coordinate existing services, and help them gain access to resources offered by more than a dozen of different schools and agencies.”
Poverty is a chronic problem, and the challenges become greater as it is perpetuated from one generation to the next. Children in North Carolina are particularly vulnerable.
• The number of NC children living in poverty has risen in recent years. Twenty-six percent – or more than one out of every four children – lives in poverty, and those numbers are typically higher in rural areas.
• Poverty also affects 26% of children in Tennessee and 27% of those in South Carolina. But as data from the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church points out, the national average is only 23%.
• Only 11 other states have higher rates of child poverty than NC, despite the fact that NC is one of the most prosperous states in the entire USA.
• The website NC.gov explains that at $398 billion, the state’s gross domestic product is 10th in the nation and equal to that of the country of Sweden, giving NC the 22th-largest GDP in the world.
Oftentimes the problem is that, although support exists, parents and caregivers are not aware of it or do not know how to take advantage of it. They themselves may not be functionally literate, for example, and may not own a car or have reliable phone or Internet access to help them connect their children to available resources and services. So organizations such as OpenDoors of Asheville facilitate the process, and the positive results are powerful.
“We observe improved school attendance, better academic performance, and increased self-esteem,” says Ramming. “Children and their families say they feel accepted where they had not before. Parents and students on both sides of the equation make connections with people they may not have been previously comfortable with, and master situations that used to feel awkward or foreign. The most satisfying difference we see is OpenDoors parents realizing they have ‘say-so’ in matters concerning their own children where they thought they had little or no voice. They see new opportunities and have more choices.”
That can make all the difference in the world, explains OpenDoors Board co-chair Shaunda Sandford. “Every child has a unique gift, despite the challenges compounded by growing up in poverty,” Sandford says. “Our responsibility is to identify those gifts and strengthen and inspire children to their fullest potential. We invest in children who live in poverty so they will have the tools and knowledge to invest in themselves and break the cycle of multi-generational poverty once and for all.”