Who do you call if you need help moving a couch or a bed frame? Where do you turn if you need to pay a bill before your first paycheck comes in? Who do you call for advice if you have trouble with a landlord or roommate? Most of us call parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings. Many of us have a best friend, coworker, or neighbor we’ve known long enough to form a relationship with, at least.
When you grow up in foster care, or just with negligent parents, the answer is different. Many of those family or otherwise long-term relationships that build social capital are torn asunder. Regardless of the cause, when a person moves frequently, they don’t have the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships in their community. This leaves them even more isolated than we might expect them to be.
Well, Oregon is reaching out to the helpers in their state to offer a helping hand to those we know need it. Their magnificent new idea in social innovation is called My Neighbor. It’s an online clearinghouse of volunteers who are ready, by phone or text, to offer support to foster youth in their community. They call it an “Emergency Response System” and it is already changing the outcomes for young people in and out of foster care.
Have a truck? You could volunteer to make a life-changing delivery of a bed to a foster youth’s first independent apartment.
Do you have a car? You could drive a young person to an opportunity-presenting interview.
Maybe you could tutor a young person hoping to pass a class or graduate. Maybe you could provide a much-needed bag of diapers and baby supplies to a struggling new parent. Maybe you could just donate a little money so that the organization can meet the emergency needs of a youth that calls in.
Imagine being the person that stops the initial event that would have led to a downward spiral?
When I was young, I had no one to call for help. I didn’t have the money to buy new brake pads for my car, so I drove on worn ones until the brakes stopped working. Then I walked. I lost my car, and then my job because of the cost of a pair of brake pads. It was four years of hard work before I was able to purchase another car, with the help of a friend’s parent. That single loan of $700 changed my life. I was able to work, and was then able to pay down debt. I eventually graduated from college, still driving that car. I wish I could call that man today and thank him for helping me turn things around. And, I wish I could change the script for all those in need. I can’t do that alone, but organizations like this one allow us to all pool what we have, or what we can do. They allow support for those individuals in need to come from a group of neighbors who decided that their lives were worth it.
Let’s work together to be those people.