Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricanes, Floods, Economic Disasters. Politics. Is it time to give up?

I've been leading a small non profit since 1990. I've been leading a volunteer based tutor/mentor program since 1975.

Every September for the past 33 years starts with recruitment of student and volunteers, orientation sessions, then the first night of tutoring, when kids meet volunteers for the first time, and many others renew bonds with the volunteer who worked with them last year, and maybe for several previous years. Read the Cabrini Blog and visit the Cabrini Connections web site to see how this tradition is unfolding for the 2008-09 school year.

There's something else I've been doing every year since 1990. I've been looking for dollars to keep the doors open so kids and volunteers can connect. This has never been easy. Yet, this year, it seems that this is an even greater challenge.

How can we ask for dollars from people who have lost their jobs, or their homes? How can we ask for donations when people are without electricity and living in motels because their homes are flooded? How can we compete with the star power and the importance of the Presidential election, when in one month Obama can raise over $30 million.

When we run out of money do we just tell the kids and volunteers, we can't help them any more?

Do we close our doors like so many small (and large) businesses are doing?

In the articles on this blog and the Links Library at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org/ I've pointed to research and newspaper reports showing the impact of poverty on poorly performing schools, on the lives of youth and families, and on how this impacts the rest of us.

A tutor/mentor program bridges the economic and social divide, by connecting volunteers from one slice of life with kids born in another. I can't give a list of evidence-based outcomes that result from what we do. I can just say that if we were not here for the past 15 years, more than 500 kids would never have connected with the 700 volunteers who have been here.

I can also say that there would not be a Tutor/Mentor Connection, or a Program Locator database. Who maintains this information if we close the doors. How do parents, volunteers, teachers, etc. find out what organizations are offering tutoring and/or mentoring in their communities.

Do we give up? No. Not yet.

Instead, I encourage you to look at the maps being created in the http://mappingforjustice.blogspot.com/ site.

For more than 10 years I've been trying to create a map capacity that leaders would use to draw attention to all of the areas of a city, or political district, where kids need extra help and where tutor/mentor programs can be part of that help. We've been rebuilding this capacity in 2008, thanks to a donation received in late 2007. I encourage you to read the articles at http://mappingforjustice.blogspot.com and on this blog, which illustrate how the maps might be used by anyone in a region, to mobilize volunteers, talent and dollars and to keep attention focused on a crisis, even when other more urgent issues dominate the headlines.

If you know people who can support this process with their own donations, I'm appealing to you to ask for them to send us contributions to support this work.

I won't give up. But, we need your help.

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