Most people that know me know that I work full-time in Marketing, but that I dedicate additional time to not just read about issues that I care about– such as poverty alleviation and female empowerment–, but that I work hands-on with those issues. About 8 months ago, I got involved with an organization called Budget Buddies, a non-profit organization that pairs volunteer financial literacy coaches with low-income women.
The way the program works is that each volunteer is assigned a “buddy” who is trying to build financial literacy and every other week you meet with them and a large group of volunteers and buddies to discuss such topics as “Keeping Your Money Safe” and “Smart Credit” strategies and the weeks in between, you meet one-on-one with your buddy to make SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound). In total you meet once a week for 6 months (or about 22 hours). The final day is celebrated with a graduation ceremony where women are given an extra boost of confidence to be financially independent and savvier than before.
How Privilege Comes Into Play
I met my first buddy after a short meeting with volunteer staff. My buddy is in her early twenties with a 1.5 year old baby who is just beginning to complete her GED. She grew up in Boston and but somehow ended up being placed in a shelter. I do not know too many personal details about her, but all I know is that even though her situation seems like a sad one, she carries herself with dignity as every person should who is working towards a better life. My buddy does not have many privileges but she still makes her life “work.” She has a lot of potential; to get a job, go to school, whatever her heart desires. There are other people in the shelter that are in far worse situations–they have become addicted to drugs and/or have lost custody of their children, are currently pregnant, and even have many children living in the shelter. The shelter is a transitional housing facility that holds 15 young mothers and their children and even with the tight space, you can still hear and see children laughing and playing.
Upon reflection, it isn’t hard to see that most of us are enormously privileged. There are more than 32,000 families in MA alone that are living below the poverty level and I have never been part of that group. That is great fortune. Most people get caught up on problems like “What new car should I buy?” and “How can I negotiate a higher salary?” but during those stressful times, people forget that the most basic things that they do have would be a dream-come-true to a lot of people. Even with so much that I feel like I need to accomplish in my life, I continuously like to check-in with myself to reiterate that during all the times that I am stressing over something, a far worse situation could be presenting itself to someone else. Count those blessings.