A Different Approach
Everyone has heard the saying "Give a man a fish, he eats for a
day; give a man a fish he eats for life."
After volunteering in a food bank for years, giving people fish
(and plenty of other food) every week, it's
just plain stupid to believe that doing the same thing every
week for the same people can produce change.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over
and over and expecting different results. So after more than
half a decade of volunteering 5 days a week, I felt more like
an enabler than actually giving a hand to people.
You Can't Fix What You Don't Measure
Food banks can cite how many families they serve every week, how
many people total in those families, even in many cases what the
retail value of the food given out every week.
Ask them about their success stories ... you get the same statistics.
Realistically, that's not a measure of success, but an
admission of failure. Especially in the face of demand incresing
every week because you're doing nothing to enable people to get
back on their feet.
I suggested having a social worker on site once in a while, or
a community health worker, someone from a mental health
support group, or making other resources available
to those waiting in line or who wanted to make a discreet
appointment, only to be repeatedly told "We don't do that."
"That's some other organisation that handles that."
"... (names of organisations that DON'T actually do what I
True success is measured in giving people a hand up, not
repeated hand-outs. Learning how to budget, assess the local
job market, evaluate their skills, how to interview,
and acquire on-the-job training via job shadowing or
volunteer work, with the end goal of them re-entering the
job market and no longer needing a hand-out.
There are a million jobs going begging in Canada, and a million
unemployed. Peole claim it's because there's a mismatch between
available jobs and potential workers skills, but that is not
the whole store by any means.
There are plenty of semi-skilled and unskilled jobs going
We Now Know It's True That Many People Just Don't
Want To Work
With a million job available, the pandemic and subsequent
labour shortage has exposed just how many people don't want
to work. They have opted to spend the rest of their lives on
welfare. We see it all the time.
Someone placed in an institution - be it long
term care or a prison - becomes institutionalized. It only
takes a few weeks.
Similarly, many people are "welfare-ized." They don't want to
risk the security of a regular welfare payment, free
prescription drugs, and possibly a subsidized apartment
Same with people who don't even begin their job search until the get
the notice that their EI (Employment Insurance) or
Workman's Compensation benefits are being cut off. In my voluneer wor
I met many "exhaustees" who were in a sudden panic.
Without a doubt we've created some perverse incentives for
people not to work, and those of us on the front lines have
seen it over and over, and we're tired. Physically
exhausted, because there just aren't enough volunteers to keep
supplying the free labour to serve those who wouldn't do what
we do even if you paid them.
Again, doing the same thing, with the same clients, and
expecting different results, is not "making a
difference." Making a difference would mean getting them off
welfare and into work.
And The There Are Those Who Just Don't Know How To
Enter/Re-Enter The Labour Market
Hey, I get it. It can be intimidating. Especially since people are
given the same 1980's-era advice about posting resumes.
And then there are those who fail to realize that they've "aged
out" of their profession - that companies can get younger, eager to
please hungry recent graduates with a fresh education, and that
karma - what goes around, comes around, is now happening to them,
same as they got their start by being hired over someone 25
Unless your profession has a shortage of workers, you're going to
end up being interviewed by people 20 - 30 years younger than you.
Because experience only counts until it's stale and outdated. It might
seem unfair, but you have to keep in mind that's probably how you got your
start, and it's a rude awakening that leaves too many people without a
clue as to even evaluate "what news?" And you can send out thousands of
resumes, won't change a thing. Reality bites - HARD!
There's got to be a better way - one that directly involves
employers looking for employees interacting with potential
employees as part of the process.
The Current Methods Are A Huge Waste Of Human
So why don't food banks offer the skill-building services
their clients and so many others so obviously need? As I
pointed out earlier, their response is "There are other
organizations that provide that help."
But food bank clients are not going to seek those
organizations out except to ask for more hand-outs. It's too
easy for them to just coast along when the place you get
your food from isn't requiring you to take training to end
your dependency on others. So food banks have
become complicit in perpetuating the cycle of dependency.
That isn't helping anyone.
Something's Gotta Give!
No problem is unsolvable. But first you have to admit that the
current system of welfare and food banks and people unable to
cope with career change is a big part of the problem.
Food banks need to stop pointing to their increasing client
load as a measure of their success, but as a sign of failure,
shame, and capitulation.
This is the motivation behind AHandUp.org. Being sick and tired
of working on the front lines perpetuating failed ways of
doing things. It's a waste of volunteer's talent, time,
and experience. Especially using retired people, who have so
much institutional knowledge about employment and jobs, and
using them for donkey work.
If you're tired of being an enabler, volunteering with
aHandUp.org may be right for you. It's the ideal
work-from-home scenario - all you need is an internet
connection and either a tablet, laptop, or computer with a
We'll work with those who are willing to put in the work to get
back on their feet again.
Copyright © 2022, 2023 by Barbra Hudson.
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