29 September 2008

Podcasts - Stories of Poverty in the First Person

UPDATED -Two more podcasts of stories of poverty in the first person have been added to the WISE podcast channel. Episodes 15 and 16, like all other episodes in the series, are taken from chapters of the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty and Health: Stories from the front, a project which was done wholly by and for women living at the bottom, or teetering close to falling into the poverty well.

This is the same project - whose total $15,000 in grant money was from Status of Women Canada - to which I did a comparison to the AWEDA project which has been in the news recently.

In short, in March 2008 AWEDA (All Women's Empowerment and Development Association) received a $142,700 grant from Status of Women Canada. It is reported that their executive director and recent Conservative candidate, Rosamond Luke, unaccountably took $84,000 of that grant money for herself. AWEDA closed its doors after six months, the 12-month project, cut short, having helped only SEVEN women. (I'd say, eight, to include Luke herself.)

While WISE was the victim of a similar scam, we did not close our doors. Instead, we continued our year-long project in spite of the financial hit.

Episode 15 - Nancy:
I have always belonged to a church and emotionally it’s important to me… It is so sad that now they are even taking Christmas out of the schools. In time of need, the church did and has stood behind me. They helped with the children with food in time of need. They helped me get my Driver’s Licence, in order that I had transportation. They gave enough money to me as a Christmas gift to get my licence and a friend gave me the car.

Nancy is a senior in her 70s who, having been widowed twice, now lives with her third husband. They have their own home, with the mortgage paid off, and a van for getting around town and taking road trips. While having lived a life of hard work and pinched purse strings, Nancy has been fortunate in having the support of family, friends, church and community.

Episode 16 - Olivia:

Olivia was one of several children in her family. Raised on a 60-acre farm, she attended a one-room schoolhouse until Grade four.

Those wide spaces in which to roam and learn, in a home which was generally loving and supportive, shaped her common sense view of life and appreciation of diversity. Unfortunately, it didn’t protect her from experiencing one abusive relationship after another.

My future? I know what’s to come, so it doesn’t bother me… Death is the least of my fears. There are worse things, like living on Social Services. Death is a natural process of life. On the other hand, death by Social Services is an unnatural death.

These and other stories in the series help demonstrate that strict income measures of poverty can be misleading, since they fail to capture the uniqueness of circumstances in which each of us, also unique, find ourselves. The variety of circumstances in which people live, all below a particular income line, present one argument against a policy such as guaranteed liveable income rather than, for example, a policy of guaranteed liveable lifestyle.

I am not arguing on behalf of either policy here, but pointing out that there is a difference, one which perhaps should be considered.

Go visit the podcast channel. Listen, comment and rate!

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