Columbia River Correctional Facility

Submitted by Donna on Tue, 10/27/2020 - 15:51
Bob in the yellow shirt

In many of our jobs, we don’t always get to see the impact. I have the privilege of getting evaluations and testimonials about how my research and poverty-informed tools impact people and organizations almost daily. But yesterday, I got an update on an organization I worked with nearly 30 years ago. I wanted to share this story.

In 1990, my brother Wayne was in prison while I was attending the University of Portland working on my Bachelor's degree in Communications. My focus was on how people in poverty were portrayed in the media. My professor and significant mentor was Dr. Bob Fulford. I had told him stories of my brother Wayne, but had never told him that Wayne was in prison. He asked where Wayne lived and I told him the city (Salem), rather than the prison name. A few months later I shared a poem Wayne had written and he asked, "Where is he?" I told him the new city where Wayne was located (Pendleton—the prison had moved him). The third time, I told him a story about Wayne. He again asked where he was. This time I told him a third city (he had been moved again). He said, "I thought you said he lived in Pendleton."

I was trapped. I needed to tell him. Softly, I said, "He's in prison." I waited for the judgment. I waited for the look of disgust. Instead, Dr. Fulford asked, "So, where is he now?" I said, "He's been moved to Portland." He asked, "Can I go see him?" The fact that he wanted to go see my brother meant the world to me.

Dr. Fulford was well known in Portland. He founded the journalism and communication departments at the University of Portland. He had been teaching there for 30 years. He also taught Politics, Rhetoric, and Journalism. Each election season, the media would come to him to analyze political speeches and campaigns so he would be on television. The fact that he was going to the prison was a big deal. The warden came out to talk with Dr. Fulford after he had visited with Wayne.

As we were leaving Columbia River Correctional Institution, Dr. Fulford told me that the prison was having problems with race, class, and gender issues. He said he had told the warden we could probably help. He asked me if I’d like to start a business. I had worked as a migrant-labor worker, in a foam rubber factory, in retail, at Pizza Hut, and at Inventory Auditors. But, I had no idea of what starting a business was all about. However, I trusted Dr. Fulford. So, I told him, “Yes. I’d like to be in business with you.” He explained that people play different roles in businesses. Then, he asked me what role I wanted. I did not know any roles, so I said the only thing I could think of: “President?”

A few weeks later, he called me to his office. He had a business license for the company called Communication Across Barriers. This was also the name of a course he was teaching that I was taking. The course covered communicating and relating more effectively across poverty, race, gender, and generational differences. He also had ordered business cards. He gave me a box. When I opened it, I learned that I was listed as President of Communication Across Barriers. I felt the power of that title.

Dr. Fulford showed me our first contract. We were asked to develop a curriculum for people in prison and train prison staff and the wardens in Oregon (their title later changed from warden to superintendent). Dr. Fulford and I worked almost daily on the project. We shot a series of 10 videos to educate people in prison and provide the tools for getting along better while in prison and when they returned to their communities. We wrote a workbook for applying the lessons. Once the curriculum was finished, we taught the ten-week course to people in prison, as well as prison staff and leaders.

At the end of our training, prison staff told us that during this training they would forget who was in prison and who was employed there. They came to the realization that once you sit down with someone and have honest communication, you realize they are a person who is not so different from you. After five years, we received a report that none of the people in our pilot program had returned to prison. This is even more significant when you consider 83 percent of people who get out of prison end up going back. Our program worked. Not only did it assist the people in prison, it transformed the prison itself. Columbia River Correctional Institution

Columbia River Corrections now has dorms, not cages. It focuses on preparing people to earn a living and get the help they need to live productive lives. The majority of people in cages in America can not read at an 8th-grade level, and they are overwhelmingly from poverty. Dr. Fulford and I laid a poverty-informed foundation for building a humane way to assist people in getting the help they needed to succeed.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who has been doing some work with Columbia River. He described how different Columbia River is from most prisons he has seen. He said, “They actually care about the people there. They are working with people to remove barriers and to get the skills and education they need to succeed.” He was stunned by the “college” atmosphere of the prison and how people are treated. (Read this article that describes the best practices Columbia River Corrections uses to be humane and actually set people up for success when they are released.)

I had not thought about the Columbia River Prison for years. I doubt most of the employees there know this history or even why they are so different than other prisons. Many of the organizations I have worked with have incorporated the poverty-informed practices I teach in a manner that it becomes "just the way we do business." Caring becomes the norm. Going above and beyond to remove any barrier you can is everyone's job.

I thanked my friend for the update. This update make my heart happy!

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Submitted by Donna on Thu, 09/10/2020 - 12:49
Portland protest art

I recently stumbled across this article from the New York Times:

Trump Moves to Cancel Contracts for Government Sensitivity Training

Shutting down education on racism at the federal level? Unbelievable. Keeping people ignorant helps no one. Not only do we need mandatory education on deep identity and racism, but we also need mandatory history of poverty United States of America.

It is ignorance that perpetuates both racism and poverty. I have trained thousands of judges, lawyers, doctors, probation officers, psychiatrists, elected officials, teachers, principals, and faith-based groups. I have yet to meet helping professionals who've had, "the history of poverty or racism in the United States of America."

We even graduate social workers without poverty 101. They are taught that the cause of poverty is addiction, alcohol, sex abuse, child abuse, and mental health. These issues affect all social classes. How many of you have heard of a wealthy drug addict, or a middle-class person who struggles with the disease of alcoholism? How many of you have heard of a well to do person committing sex offenses or child abuse? We have taken every social ill in humanity and put it on people in the crisis of poverty who have no voice. Most social work curriculum does not teach about the housing affordability crisis, the child care affordability crisis, the transportation crisis... where we don't have transportation systems to get people where they need to go when they need to be there or the hunger crisis ... where we have one in five children in this wealthy nation going hungry.

On average, I train 90,000 people a year with poverty competencies. I always ask the question, how much is your state's minimum wage? The majority cannot answer. I invited one of our senators to present at our Beegle Poverty Immersion institutes. He asked the audience made up of professionals from all sectors if they knew who their local elected officials were. No one could answer.

We are not taught about the early deaths of people in poverty because they can't access preventative care. The majority believe that people in poverty die younger because of drinking, smoking, and not taking care of themselves. The research shows that only 13% died earlier because of those reasons. 87% die early because of living in polluted neighborhoods, working in unsafe jobs, lack of access to preventative healthcare, dental care, and the stress of poverty itself which affects immunity and kills short-term memory cells. By the time most people living in the crisis of poverty get to a doctor, it's too late. My giant teddy bear brother, Melvin is one of the millions who experience that.

Taxpayers spend billions of dollars on the symptoms of not addressing the root causes of poverty. For example, in Utah, they calculated the cost of one human being on the streets. They calculated the cost of paramedics, emergency rooms, police, and other emergency services that taxpayers fund. They found it was $20,000 taxpayers were spending to keep one person on the streets. They spoke with developers and found they could house that person for $11,000. Los Angeles conducted the same study and found their cost for one person to be homeless was $36,000 per year. The cost to incarcerate one person is nearly $50,000 a year. What if we invest in our fellow human beings and ensure everyone has nutrition, excellent education, access to preventative care, access to decent housing, access to transportation, and wonderful child care? Studies show we would save billions of dollars. The impacts of both poverty and racism are expensive. We can do better but not in ignorance.

Everyday uneducated professionals impact the lives of people in poverty and people of color without a grounded understanding of how racism and the different life experiences of poverty impact our fellow human beings and what we can do about it.

This has been my work for 30 years. I can't tell you how many times professionals have said to me, " I needed your training day one."" Education on poverty has changed the way I practice medicine." "Education on poverty has changed my life and how I see and treat people on the streets."

Professionals have caused unintentional harm and that is not why they go into their work. Everyday people who vote without being educated on real poverty causes and institutional racism, cause unintentional harm. If they do get an education they are typically horrified by their actions that perpetuate racism and poverty. Without an education, they are left with stereotypes and ignorance.

My hope is that everyone who reads this will actually call your local elected officials at your county, your city, and your state. Call your federal representatives in Congress and tell them we need education on poverty and we need education on racism. Without it we continue to be the country that has more people in cages than any country in the world. It's no surprise that the majority are people of color and people in poverty.

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Communicating and Relating

Submitted by Donna on Fri, 05/22/2020 - 07:34

In my research with people who live in the crisis of poverty, 92% reported that when they leave a helping professional (social worker, teacher, health care worker, or legal professional), they are confused and often do not know what to do next. Communication is complex. If you are talking to someone with a similar background to you, there is a 50% chance you will have misunderstandings. Think about how often you have said something, thinking you were perfectly clear, only to discover what they heard is not even close to what you were communicating.

Helping professionals often report sharing resources and/or opportunities with children, families, and caregivers only to learn there was no follow-through. They also find that comments they have said or paperwork they have given with explicit instructions does not seem to get through to the people they are working to help. The misunderstandings increase when we are communicating with people who have had different lived experiences.

In this session, I offer tools for communicating and relating across poverty barriers. These tips will provide you with strategies to ensure the message you are sending is actually being received. I will also briefly explore strategies for online communications with folks who live in the war zone of poverty.

I will start by sharing an overview of two distinct styles of communication that connects to socio-economic status: Oral and Print. Print Culture style of communication is linked to middle class, while Oral Culture style is linked to poverty. In his worldwide research, the American Jesuit priest and professor of English literature Walter Ong, S.J. found that people who lived in poverty tend to communicate in a word-of-mouth oral style, which means they get information by asking other people.

In my research, I linked oral culture characteristics with the realities of poverty that shape worldview. For example, one characteristic of oral culture is that it is relationship-based. If you get information about living your life from people, you place relationships above everything else. Poverty teaches that people are more important than any object or experience. Understanding the characteristics of oral culture communication gives insight into the “whys” behind human behavior and our natural way of communicating with others.

Print culture communication is learned through literacy. People who have the luxury to become literate gain specific skillsets that benefit them in education and the workplace. Print culture communication styles come from getting primary information from reading. When you seek information for living your life from reading, you develop skills such as linear abstract thought processes and the ability to focus on one idea at a time.

Ong taught that neither oral nor print are “better” styles, but in the United States the skillsets associated with print are rewarded and valued. Ong encouraged a balance. He believed we were losing valuable human skills by devaluing oral culture characteristics such as the ability to be spontaneous and develop meaningful relationships. Honoring oral culture communication and assisting people in gaining the skillsets associated with print is a strategy that works for improving communication.

Hopefully, this mini-session has whet your appetite to delve deeper into the fascinating subject of communicating and relating across ALL barriers. On Thursday, June 4th at 10:30 am Pacific Time, join us for a 90-minute webinar that offers knowledge and strategies for improving communication and relationships. Registration is now open.

See you next Wednesday for more Poverty and Pandemic FB live at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

If you found this video informative, please share with your networks!

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Pandemic, Working-Class Poverty, and a Single Mom

Submitted by Donna on Wed, 05/06/2020 - 15:56

What are the impacts of our systems on our fellow human beings? Today, I interviewed a single mom, Michele, who provides insights into how she and her working-class family have fallen through the cracks for generations. Working-class poverty is the type of poverty where people have jobs, but they live paycheck to paycheck and continuously struggle to pay bills. People in this context are typically not educated beyond high school.

Children in working-class poverty, like children in generational poverty, tend to lose their childhoods. They have to become adults at very young ages to help the family survive. Michele started working at 15 and has worked one or often two jobs for as long as she can remember. Because she only had a high school education, the types of jobs she has worked did not pay a living wage. She doesn’t remember a time when having a place to live was not a struggle. As a result, her family was constantly evicted and moving. “Every single month, I nervously wonder if I am going to make enough to pay the rent.”

After working for 15 years and not getting ahead, Michele tried to find a path to a better life. “I realized just working the low-wage jobs was never going to get me anywhere, so I decided to make a better life for my kids. I decided to go back to school so I could get a degree and make more money. That was 7 years ago. I realized that I was working part time, going to school, always cycling...but never moving forward.”

In this video, Michele shares the real struggles of not have stability combined with not knowing how to navigate the higher education system. Michele has completed THREE associate’s degrees and is about to finish a one-year certification in Gerontology. “If I had someone to look at my college record, I would probably learn that I have way too many credits. And I have exhausted my financial aid." When she entered college for the first associate’s degree, she had a dream of helping people. She wanted to go to a University to get better pay and be able to care for her children, but has been intimidated and did not understand what she needed to do to get there.

This may surprise you, but Michele is an honor student. She did so well in 8th grade, they advanced her a year. She had been on both the President's and the Dean’s lists. Even with all the impacts of poverty, her GPA has never fallen below a 3.00. Being smart does not mean you know what questions to ask or how to navigate systems. If you are from poverty, it is foreign territory. What seems obvious to most, is first-time experiences and information to so many.   

The current pandemic has added additional mental health and poverty stress on her and her daughters. Her income has been cut in half. She got the $1200 stimulus and a $500 credit for her 10-year-old, but her two older daughters did not qualify because she claimed them on her taxes. Note, they live with her. One is in college and the other has lost her job due to the pandemic. The stimulus money will not even pay one month’s rent. They have received food from food pantries and have done without.

Listen to Michele’s experiences with housing, employment, and education and reflect on how we can build better pathways to education success for students who live in the crisis of poverty. Her story illuminates once again why we cannot go back to "normal."

 

As a way to give back to the community during this pandemic, we are providing the following resources/discounts:

This link to the video and discount will be available through May 31, 2020.

Help support us on Patreon! Included in your membership will be a digital copy of "See Poverty ... Be The Difference" and more. You'll also make a difference by helping keep focused on delivering content.

Patreon!

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Men, Poverty, and Pandemics

Submitted by Donna on Wed, 04/29/2020 - 22:18

Today, we are going to talk about Men, Poverty, and Pandemics. Because of the current crisis, we see more men falling into poverty—many who have not lived in it before. Men, from a very early age, are socialized to be the provider for their family. We might think gender roles have shifted, which they have. However, it is telling when a man gets startled responses when he says he is a "stay at home dad." Many men in poverty and those falling into it can not live up to what is expected. When they aren’t able to support their family like they hope to, they begin to internalize the message that something is wrong with them.

In my family, my five brothers were raised to make it better for me and my mom and my grandma. They are guys so, because of their “maleness,” they should be able to figure it out. They got strong messages to make everything OK...but they did not know how. Because of these messages, they began to have a lower self-esteem along with feelings of worthlessness. Sometimes, their need to provide combined with lack of marketable skills/education leads to activities that end in incarceration.

Today, we will talk with Matt—a single dad of two kids who is currently working in a low-income job while being homeless and couch-surfing with his kids. He will give us insights as to what poverty has meant to him and what he believes might be some ways that people in his situation can be best supported.

As a way to give back to the community during this pandemic, we are providing the following resources/discounts:

This link to the video and discount will be available through May 31, 2020.

Help support us on Patreon! Included in your membership will be a digital copy of "See Poverty ... Be The Difference" and more. You'll also make a difference by helping keep focused on delivering content.

Patreon!

Please tune in next Wednesday for our 5th mini poverty training session. Remember to share with your networks if you think this will be helpful to them!

 

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Sylvia Stratford (not verified)

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 11:01

Thank you, Dr. Beegle, for this conversation and easy platform. It is a privilege to hear Matt's sharing. I look forward to hearing more and learning more.

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Everyone Can Make a Difference

Submitted by Donna on Wed, 04/22/2020 - 19:10

Mentoring and navigating for people really helps.  Here are 4 qualities that I have found to be essential.

  1. You have to believe in the person you are mentoring
  2. Show the person you are mentoring that they have value. Point out the skills they already have.
  3. Do not judge.
  4. Connect the person you are helping with other people. You can't do this alone.

Help support us on Patreon! Included in your membership will be a digital copy of "See Poverty ... Be The Difference" and more. You'll also make a difference by helping keep focused on delivering content.

As a way to give back to the community during this pandemic, we are providing the following resources/discounts:

This link to the video and discount will be available through May 31, 2020.

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The New Normal

Submitted by Donna on Wed, 04/22/2020 - 10:33
Daniel and Donna on the Beach

 

 

This week was my son Dan’s birthday. I asked him what would make him smile. He said he would like the world to return to normal. I said, I don’t want it to go back to the “old normal.”

 

Right now,

  • We are not evicting people. Many landlords are deferring rent payments to a time when people are receiving full paychecks.
  • Hotels are giving people without homes a safe place to sleep with a TOILET:). • We are not turning off people’s water or lights.
  • People are stepping up to make sure everyone has food.
  • The Department of Human Services has simplified applications for SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
  • A car company in Oregon has offered to service broken-down cars for free.
  • In one community, they have stopped towing cars when people cannot afford car insurance.
  • Fees are being waived by credit card companies when someone can’t pay.
  • Unemployment checks will have more money than the typical 40% of your regular income (of course, they need to get the systems to work right so people get that money!).
  • Troubled businesses are getting forgivable loans.
  • The IRS has delayed tax filing to assist people who are hurting.
  • More money is being given to helping organizations like Community Action.
  • Colleges are changing policies and practices to better serve students being impacted by COVID-19 and Poverty.
  • Student loans have been deferred with zero interest.
  • Schools are partnering with internet companies to close the digital divide.
  • Computers are being provided to students who do not have one.
  • The news is covering poverty—Real poverty impacts, not stereotypes and myth!

These practices need to continue long after a vaccine is invented. They are compassionate and show the reality that there is nothing more important than people.

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Submitted by Donna on Wed, 04/15/2020 - 14:00

Our social safety net during the pandemic is focused on people who are in what we call "situational poverty".  They come to poverty with an already full backpack of skills and knowledge that will help them once the crisis is over. This safety net is not for those who's backpack was already empty going into this.

Help support us on Patreon! Included in your membership will be a digital copy of "See Poverty ... Be The Difference" and more. You'll also make a difference by helping keep focused on delivering content.

As a way to give back to the community during this pandemic, we are providing the following resources/discounts:

This link to the video and discount will be available through May 31, 2020.

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Elia Moreno and Me

Donna and Elia

Elia Moreno and Me

Elia first came to a training I was doing in 2010 in Amarillo, TX. She later told me, “You wrecked my life.” She said she thought she was understanding poverty and serving people well, but learned that she could do so much more. She was soon hired to coordinate the Opportunity Community efforts in Amarillo.

A perfect example of her commitment to her neighbors living in poverty happened after the second Amarillo Opportunity Conference. The community partners all went out to dinner to celebrate. Elia received a phone call, then turned to me and said, “I have to leave.” It turns out that a single mom from the Opportunity Conference had called her. It was Friday and she was desperate to get diapers for her baby. A church had told her if she could make it to them before they left for the day, they would help. She used her last bit of money to take a bus across town. When she arrived at the church, they gave her only six diapers for the entire weekend. Elia left the celebration, picked up the mom, and got her diapers. Time after time, I have seen Elia drop everything to impact someone’s life—just like she did for this single mom.

Within three years, Elia was certified as a Beegle Poverty Coach. Soon after, we contracted with her to be our National Program Director. Elia works with organizations to bring the Beegle Poverty Immersion and Coaching Institutes to their community. She also serves as one of our Opportunity Coaches—assisting communities in building their capacity to implement and sustain our Opportunity Community model in cities around the country. She is also one of our top Beegle Speakers.

Elia has devoted her life to making a difference for people who live in the crisis of poverty. She walks her talk! We are so fortunate to have her as part of our Communication Across Barriers team.

Author: Donna on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:33

AMARILLO, TX ~ Seasoned Beegle Speaker and Coach Shares Successful GED Model

Elia Moreno

Seasoned Beegle Speaker and Coach Shares Successful GED Model

Elia Moreno, a seasoned poverty expert, wears many hats and titles – her latest, Founder and CEO of Living Intentionally Ministries, a community space in Amarillo, Texas that provides support to adults seeking a GED, with a focus on removing barriers that individuals might have to accessing education and opportunities. The center opened less than a year ago and is currently serving 170 students. She shares with us what makes her program unique and successful.

“First, we make it easy and we treat people with dignity. There are no hurdles to jump,” says Moreno. Easy access includes no screening process. No income restrictions or guidelines. “We serve people who have recently gotten out of prison, teen moms, anyone who wants to work on their GED, even if you make $100,000 a year,” says Moreno.

Easy access to the initial GED assessment helps attracts students. Individuals can complete a 45-minute assessment either during office hours at the center or anytime they have access to a computer outside of the center. “After completing the assessment, people often become encouraged and think ‘Maybe I can do it,’” says Moreno.

The goal is to instill hope and provide connections to opportunities. “Some people who come to the center are not employed. Then, they graduate with their GED and start earning an income, even if it is just $8-10 an hour,” Moreno says. “This gives them hope that they can obtain gainful employment and maybe even pursue educational opportunities.” Proud of the success they are having, Moreno says that—of the 24 recent GED graduates—7 of them have gone on to college.

Self-paced services help create personalized plans to meet individuals where they are and guide them to completion. If initial assessment results shows a student is ready to take any of the four GED tests, they can do so right away. Students are not required to complete any classes. Classes are available for those who would like to participate. “Some people finish all of their tests in a few weeks while others may take a couple of years,” Moreno says. Support is personalized in a way that also provides privacy. No one knows if an individual struggles with math or literacy.

Failure is not an option for Moreno. No matter what an individual’s literacy level, Living Intentionally Ministries will help either in-house or through partnerships. Currently, they are working to implement a literacy program. “Through that process, we learned that the Language Arts portion touches on U.S. History, which creates a barrier for some. In addition to their limited literacy, they don't have enough background information in U.S. History to be successful in the literacy class. We have also found that if a student didn't take U.S. History or was absent a lot, they will not be able to answer the questions correctly—no matter how strong their literacy skills are.” So Elia and her team are teaching US History and showing videos to help make history come alive for their students.

Whatever barriers an individual has, Moreno and her staff work tirelessly to remove them in a way that shows people they matter and are important. Moreno says they could not do this without community partnerships, which she strives to continue to build and maintain. “We recognize that people have barriers such as transportation and childcare. We help them access resources so that they can move forward. And there is no label of shame. Our job is to serve people in a way that imparts dignity.”

Moreno has always had good intentions of helping people move out of poverty, but this strategy has not always been her approach. “I met Donna [Beegle] about 12 years ago and she wrecked my life.” Moreno jokes. “I was thinking that I was doing everything right. Once I learned about poverty from her, I had to change how I was working with people.  I've always considered myself caring and compassionate, but, after the trainings, I was better able to listen to what the person I was serving needed, rather than giving them what I thought they needed. " she says. "Since meeting Donna, I have evolved.”

Using the principles of Communication Across Barriers, Moreno has positively impacted her community in several capacities over the last 10 years and has also been working closely with Dr. Beegle in various capacities. Her first time working with Dr. Beegle was when she assisted in establishing the Amarillo Opportunity Community, a program that has served over 2,200 adults and over 4,000 children of these families. Since then, she completed the Beegle Poverty Coach certificate in 2010 and has been a Beegle Speaker since 2014, speaking across the country to various organizations. Moreno also serves as Dr. Beegle’s National Program Director for the Opportunity Community program. If you are interested in implementing the Opportunity Community model in your city, please contact Elia Moreno at Elia@combarriers.com.

Moreno has also found time to write two books about her experiences with serving people in poverty. “Living Intentionally: Mastering the Art of Impacting Others in Just 90 Seconds” was released six years ago. It details the strategies she learned to connect with people she serves. After years of working with people in poverty, her more recent book,“Permission to Rest,” discusses the process of growing weary of serving. “We need self-care to continue to allow compassion,”she says. Books can be purchased as www.noexcusesu.com.

In addition to overseeing the Living Intentionally Community center and working with Dr. Beegle, Moreno also serves her community and country in several other capacities. She currently is Co-Executive Director of Texas Christian Community Development Network. She is also the National Director of Community Outreach for the No Excuses University Network of Schools, a growing network of 250 schools that promote college readiness for all students, especially those living in poverty.

In a future newsletter, we will ask Moreno to reveal the super power she possesses that gives her the ability to manage so much responsibility.

Author: lynda on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:23