Donna Beegle says we need to remember that whether people live in poverty or out, we are from the same species, though we may be living in different realities.
Beegle, president of Oregon-based Communication Across Barriers and author of The Opportunity Community Model, was the keynote speaker for CAP Services‘ annual awards reception Wednesday at UW-Fox Valley’s Perry Hall and presented a talk for the general public supported by a Community Foundation Community Education grant.
Beegle describes herself as coming from generational poverty, having grown up in a family of cottonpickers. “We worked that day for food that night,” she said.
She dropped out of high school and married at age 15, and was pregnant soon after. She was 28 when a professor recognized her intelligence through her working class English and, she said, taught her a second language of middle class English. She went from earning her GED to doctorate in education in 10 years, studying poverty the entire time.
She tours the nation bringing the perspective of someone who came from poverty to people who haven’t experienced it. During her public presentation in Menasha to about 150 people, with human services workers well represented, Beegle shared these poverty realities and insights:
- “This is the only country in the world that treats poverty like the people who are living in it are the cause of their situation, and they could get out of poverty if they worked harder.” According to the recent census, two-thirds of people living in poverty are working 1.7 jobs.
- A lot of unintentional harm and bias happens related to poverty. “If you are judging, you cannot connect. If you cannot connect, you cannot communicate. If you cannot communicate, you cannot break poverty barriers. It’s important to be poverty informed.”
- “If I can’t help, then who can?” Poverty is complex and requires a comprehensive, community-wide approach to help people move out of poverty.
“There is no such thing as a culture of poverty,” she said. Beegle described herself as a fluke for being able to escape poverty, crediting programs offered by organizations like CAP (Community Action Program) Services. “The potential in your community is phenomenal,” she said.
The other key to escaping poverty is education. “If you don’t get an education, if you don’t get training, you are going to be poor and so are your children,” Beegle said.
During CAP Services’ annual awards reception, Chris and Vic Anthony received its Pnazek’s Box Award, recognizing innovation, initiative, insight and integrity that create “outside the box” ideas. Chris chairs the grants committee of our Waupaca Area Community Foundation partner.