“The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
These words apply quite clearly to how we should interact and empathize with those experiencing hunger and poverty in the world around us. It is often far too easy for us as people to carelessly dismiss those experiencing any form of poverty as lazy, irresponsible, and/or a product of their own poor decisions. Here at Hand2Hand, this is not the mindset. It is vital to seek to understand those who are facing struggles and learn the best ways to assist and empower them.
The jarring reality of unseen poverty is true right here in Michigan as there are many families that are facing widespread economic hardship and yet are rarely acknowledged. Many of these economic obstacles are systematic and unavoidable for families across the state.
According to the ALICE Project study done by the Michigan Association of United Ways, between 2010-2017 the average cost for basic household expenses for a family of four in Michigan rose 27%. Despite this change, the overall economy of the state of Michigan was improving during those years, making it even easier to forget the increasing struggle of those living in poverty.
Such economic factors have resulted in over 400,000 children across the state of Michigan that are currently living in households below the poverty line. And while unemployment rates in Michigan may be at an all-time low, 61% of all jobs pay less than $20 per hour. A family of four would need an estimated $30.64 per hour for basic necessities.
While these numbers may be daunting and there may not be an immediate, all-encompassing solution for family poverty and hunger, there are still ways to take action. The work that Hand2Hand does is instrumental in the fight against childhood hunger as 7,833 children are able to go back to their families every Friday with a backpack full of food and recipes that will last the weekend. Hand2Hand provides a judgment-free, dependable, helping hand to the often misunderstood families of West Michigan who are in the midst of economic turmoil.
The work is not entirely finished and there remain many hungry children and families across Michigan that are in need of support, but through the work of Hand2Hand and its 6150 volunteers, these children and families can experience hope instead of hunger as they battle on against the realities of economic hardship.
Written by Michael Karanja