Clarifying Key Concepts
Wolseley Family Place fosters the development of healthy moms, healthy babies, and healthy families within the community. Assuming this as our vision statement leaves us with our eyes set on a broad and potentially contradictory set of paths to achieve this vision. However, this statement is not simply there because it sounds good. Words have been chosen with care to leave staff with a common understanding of where this vision statement points to. Within this statement is a focus on community capacity building achieved through the family unit. Community capacity building and many other goals of WFP rely on a thorough understanding by staff of the issues surrounding them. Success depends as much upon the method as it does on the content. This paper will clarify the issues surrounding WFP and will outline a path towards achieving the above vision.
Community Capacity Building
“…give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. -Convey”
Community capacity building starts at the skills and knowledge of the community, and proceeds in the direction expressed by the community members in order to build a better place to live. Capacity building involves two processes: assisting people to develop the skills they need to have control over the factors that affect their lives, and removing the barriers that prevent them from achieving their full potential as members of the community. These process are different for each community, and each individual within the community, but at the heart, they have some fundamental assumptions that cannot be forgotten. These assumptions involve belief:
Community Capacity building is a process, and these beliefs are at the foundation of that process. WFP, as a community resource, is at the beginning of that process. WFP is able to provide a place for empowering participants to develop skills to continue this process. If building community capacity is about the transfer of control from one group to another group, WFP is there to assist families with children aged 0-6 who, generally, have not had much control in the past gain that control.
The initiatives at WFP are designed to focus on both aspects of Community Capacity Building; being a vehicle for the participants to develop the skills they want, and addressing the structural barriers to community control, such as poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism among others.
Personal empowerment can be defined as “promoting participation of people…towards the goals of increase individual and community control, political efficacy, improved quality of life and social justice.” (Freire, 1970) It recognizes that the skills that people already have are important tools to building community. The promotion of these skills is at the heart of empowerment. Where traditional attitudes towards poverty and disenfranchised groups erode a persons sense of self-worth, the empowerment approach boosts self-esteem through the abilities of the individual.
To take this notion of empowerment to a community level, brings in the idea of equity – having access to the resources that they need and desire. Neighbourhood empowerment uses the capacity of the community members to access resources that they typically may not get as individuals. These resources include: money; adequate physical resources (buildings, tools, etc.) and decision making control. The barriers that exist to community members are often based on issues of poverty, gender, sexual identity, ability and race. These will be discussed later on.
Thus community capacity building is a process which adheres to a philosophical standpoint based on the value of the individual and on the ability of a community to change the circumstances within which it exists. There are many different paths towards community capacity building but they all flow from the assumptions mentioned above. If these assumptions are neglected, then the effort to build community may turn into simply a delivery of services to a recipient – a process aimed at ‘fixing people’.
The Goals of Wolseley Family Place:
To develop programs that improve the health of families and their children. The health approach at Wolseley Family Place follows a Population Health Model. The Population Health Model was developed to address issues that were not covered by a health services approach: the health services are able to influence who gets well after they get ill, but they have little effect on who gets ill in the first place.
Population Health takes into consideration a wide variety of social and economic situations of groups of people. This approach identifies twelve different determinants of health, each of which interacts with each other and contribute to the health of a population. Based upon these determinants health interventions can be focussed on a whole population or on a sub-population to increase the health of that population prior to sickness.
The underlying assumptions of a population health model are:
The determinants of health is the collective label given to the factors and conditions that research has shown to have an influence on health. It is important to understand that it is the complex interaction of these factors that have a profound impact on the health of the population.
There are 12 determinants of health:
Looking carefully at the programs and services of WFP, it is easy to see how our programs address each of these determinants for our target population. Some programs will have a strong focus on one determinant, while addressing others as a sideline. e.g. The cooking class addresses the personal practices, through the access to food and education on a diverse range of nutritional topics, and at the same time provides the women who attend a social group from which to form a social support network.
Equity And Poverty
To provide families with equitable opportunities to reach their fullest potential
Generally, all of the families that participate at Wolseley Family Place live below the poverty line. This presents obstacles for them in their ability to reach their fullest potential. There are obstacles that present trouble in their daily lives (access to food, safe housing, and transportation), and there are obstacles that are more subtle, yet prevent them from achieving their potential (rewarding employment, access to education, and an economy that relies on poverty to keep wages low).
The subtle effects of poverty are much more destructive in the long term. For example, while we have public education which gives education to all, the quality of education that a rich person will get is greater than that of someone living in poverty. The person in poverty has little access to education outside of school (extracurricular events that require money, having a computer at home, easy access to lots of books.) The quality of education determines the employment opportunities that a person has later in life, and also their income level.
The trend among service providers dealing with people living in poverty is to focus on resilience, that is, building skills to help people deal with the daily obstacles of poverty. At Wolseley Family Place part of our goal is to increase these skills. Programs like the cooking class, and the community store assist to make it easier on families living in poverty. However if this was all that was done to provide equitable opportunity for families in poverty, we would not be very effective.
Equitable opportunity implies that families will be able to have to similar choices in their lives. It means that a family can choose the education it would like for it’s children, or the type of diet they would like to enjoy. In order to provide these choices, a family must be able to overcome the obstacles of poverty, such as limited access to education. The key for Wolseley Family Place to reach this goal is a question of atmosphere and attitude, not of programming. Our programs are able to assist participants overcome the daily obstacles, but it is the atmosphere that will change the situation of poverty.
Wolseley Family Place promotes an attitude that does not accept poverty as a natural occurrence in our society. There is the possibility to have a productive economy without having people live in poverty, and we are working towards that end. Wolseley Family Place encourages policy development that will focus on providing long term solutions to poverty (increased access to education, community empowerment). Wolseley Family Place also tries to help the participants to understand the economic and societal influences that shape their poverty, and how they too, can work towards larger change within society.
In order to achieve our goal of providing families opportunities to achieve their potential, Wolseley Family Place must provide assistance with the daily challenges faced by those living in poverty. However, if we stop there we are failing at our task, Wolseley Family Place needs to also contribute to the growing movement against poverty through policy development and by building a consciousness among participants and staff of elements that maintain poverty for the benefit of the rich.
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