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Update from Jocelyn Kirk—Young Adult Volunteer

This is a final update from Jocelyn Kirk, a church member who served as a Young Adult Volunteer for the Presbyterian Church (USA). The church supported her ministry this past year and along the way she has shared her experiences.

 

My choice to join the Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) program was a basic one: to join my two passions of faith and education. I chose New Orleans because I wanted to pick a city where the education system was not perfect; even before Katrina, New Orleans has been fighting to make a school system that ends the school to prison pipeline and promotes high school educations, whether from public institutions, private affairs, or charter schools. As an educator who has studied the school system for four years, I want to make a difference in school systems rather than simply be a part of the machine.

Working in adult education does just that. This non-profit work has come up simply because of the school system’s lack of success. Our students who walk through the door each day have been failed by the school system, yet they still find that education is the link to growth in their personal lives. I had a new student come in, bruised and beaten from an abusive husband, who saw the education of herself and her son as the best start to their new lives. That is powerful.

The YAV program is unique in the fact that it supports both education in the surrounding community and the education of their workers. I do not simply go to work and go home each week. Instead, my group reads and discusses books about mass incarceration, education, faith, and faith exploration. In our year we are focusing on New Orleans and its school system, the prison system, and the culture.

Immersing myself into my surroundings is key to the YAV program but it also is helping me with my original goal of mixing my two passions. That goal was not as basic as I believed, mainly because each day my faith and my education is thoroughly tested. My students have walked through hardships that I cannot fathom and end up on the other side; I frequently question why such wonderful, dedicated students are given such hard tasks in life. It made me question so much during my time in New Orleans because I see poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and the aftereffects of incarceration everyday. However, as I have progressed, I think I have grown to see that my students are so much stronger than I think I will ever be. They have pushed my comfort level, they have opened my eyes to the injustice in the world, and they show me everyday why teaching is my passion.

 

Mission Spotlight: Highlands Community Ministries

By Jim Crowley, Chair of Church in the World

 

Highlands Community Ministries (HCM) serves residents of zip codes 40204 and 40205 and is a member of the Association of Community Ministries. Supported in part by 24 local churches, including HPC, they deliver a variety of programs to our neighbors including: Individual and Family Assistance Programs (15% funded by local churches and 35% by metro-government), Adult Day Care and Health Center services, Senior Services, Children’s Day Care. HCM’s 2014 expenses were $3.14M.

 

HCM is the second largest recipient of our benevolences, behind the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and in 2015 the Session hcm sign highlands community ministriesapproved giving HCM $22,000 (unchanged from the previous year). Highland Pres also collaborates with HCM in a
number of areas in addition to the annual Thanksgiving Basket food drives and the Angel Tree initiatives and many individuals who come to the church seeking assistance are directed to HCM. While many other community ministry programs throughout Louisville have disappeared in recent years, HCM continues to survive and thrive and that perhaps may be due to the ongoing commitment of HPC and other local churches.

 

Hunger remains a serious issue nationally and right here in Jefferson county and our own neighborhood. Based on a 2013 report by Feeding America, 17.2% of people living in Jefferson County (128,380) were considered “food insecure”. This feeding america logocompares to 15.8% nationally and 16.4% for the state of Kentucky. Feeding America defines “food insecurity” as the “[a] measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.” While poverty and food insecurity are highly correlated, research has also shown that unemployment, rather than just poverty level, is a better predictor of food scarcity.

 

Dare-to-Care is the local Feeding America affiliate in Louisville and runs the Portland Avenue Community Trust food bank and to which HPC is a regular contributor. Dare-to-Care provides further statistics around hunger and food scarcity in our immediate community. Of those seeking assistance through community food banks:

  • 75% live in poverty
  • 35% were employed during part of the last year
  • 65% of households have a member with high blood pressure
  • 41% of households have a member with diabetes
  • 64% of households have unpaid medical bills
  • 91% purchased inexpensive unhealthy food in order to feed their family Not surprisingly, this same population tends to have health issues that can be associated with limited access to enough and high quality food

 

Is there more Highland can be doing? Are their new ways Highland can be involved? Let your Church in the World Committee know if you have suggestions.

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