Tackling Poverty — It Starts with Understanding

Donna BeegleDr. Donna M. Beegle is on a mission to educate Americans about poverty. With awareness and understanding, she believes, we can take steps to change the structural causes of poverty.

She brought her message to Kansas City last week at an event sponsored by Swope Health Services (SHS) in celebration of National Health Center Week. Nearly 50 people attended, including SHS associates and board members as well as members from SHS partner organizations and community support advocates.

Dr. Beegle has firsthand experience with her topic. She grew up in “generational migrant labor poverty” and dropped out of school to get married at age 15. By the time she was 25, she found herself with no husband, little education, no job skills and two children.

“Poverty steals your hope,” she said. “Yesterday is gone and there is no tomorrow. You just have to make it through today.”

Through personal experiences of homelessness and hunger, she explained the role of the media and social policies in segregating those in poverty from those “in privilege.”  She gave examples of well-meaning but ineffective social programs — handing out literacy brochures to people who can’t read, for example.

She also recounted a story that gave some insight into why people in poverty might be reluctant to seek out healthcare. When she was young, her school sponsored a dental screening. She was scared to death and cried so much, she ended up not being seen. Why was she so terrified? Everyone she knew who went to the dentist went to have their teeth pulled, due in part to living in poverty and not having the proper nutrition to support healthy teeth. In fact, she didn’t know anyone over 30 who still had teeth — all the adults she knew had dentures.

PovertyAt the luncheon, Dr. Beegle also shared a preview of a video documentary, featuring her and her family. Due out later this year, she feels this is another way to raise awareness and launch community action. A preview of the documentary is available on Facebook online at https://www.facebook.com/102238439830427/videos/1442934325448/

“We have to consider the humanity of people in the crisis of poverty,” she said. “It’s not that people don’t care. It’s just that they don’t understand. There is an ignorance of poverty that we need to change.”

She called for a community-wide approach to removing the isolation of poverty.

“We can shift the paradigm from fighting people to fighting the systems that perpetuate poverty,” she said.

SHS President and Chief Executive Officer David Barber wholeheartedly agrees and promised the audience that Dr. Beegle’s presentation was just a first step. Stay tuned for ways you can learn more and join the dialogue.

About Dr. Donna Beegle

Donna Beegle, Ph.D., is president of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm based in Portland, Ore. She is the author of “See Poverty, Be the Difference,” a resource book for professionals who work with people in poverty.

Dr. Beegle has an undergraduate and a master’s degree in communications. Her doctorate degree is in educational leadership from Portland State University.

Resources for those working to better understand and assist those in poverty are available in her book and on her firm’s website: http://www.combarriers.com

Come Celebrate National Health Center Week With Us August 9-15!

Come join us at Swope Health Services as we celebrate our role in the community during National Health Center Week, August 9-15, 2015.

Here are three ways you can join in:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 12: A community luncheon and presentation at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, (4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64108) by Donna K. Beegle, expert on breaking the cycle of poverty. Tickets are $45 and include lunch and a copy of her book “See Poverty…Be the Difference!: Discover the Missing Pieces for Helping People Move Out of Poverty.” (NOTE: Reservations for this presentation are now closed. If you would still like to attend, call Amy at 816-599-5666 for assistance.)
  • 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, August 14: Burgers, Brews and Brainteasers — a trivia night fundraiser for SHS at Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill (817 Westport Road, Kansas City, MO, 64111). Tickets are $20 and include an all-you-can eat burger bar, drink specials and admission to the trivia contest. Bring a team of 6 to 8 or come on your own and join a team. Order tickets here.
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, August 15, 2015: Community Health Fair at Swope Health Central (3801 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, MO, 64130). See exhibits, talk with our health professionals, play games and enjoy a free pancake breakfast (while supplies last). (No ticket required.)

NHS adThe federal Department of Health and Human Services declared National Health Center Week to celebrate the role of community health centers in providing high quality preventive and primary health care to patients without regard for their ability to pay.

Community health centers have increased access to health care, nationally serving more than 21 million patients annually, including those living in poverty and without medical insurance. Hundreds of community health centers across the country are taking this week to celebrate with patients and their communities.

Has Swope Health Services made a difference to you? We’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments below.

Dr. Karmen Smith Honors Mother and Supports SHS

On Friday, May 15, SHS hosted a luncheon with Dr. Karmen Smith, a Trauma Specialist and Ordained Minister based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

From left: Mark Miller, Vice President of Behavioral Health and SHS CEO Dave Barber receive Karmen Smith's donation.

From left: Mark Miller, Vice President of Behavioral Health and SHS CEO Dave Barber receive Karmen Smith’s donation.

Dr. Smith’s “A Legacy of Compassion” presentation reflected on the career and philosophy of her mother, Kanzetta Harris, a former social worker with SHS. The Kanzetta Harris House, one of the SHS group homes, is named in her honor.

“My mother had a different set of eyes than I did,” said Dr. Smith. “She endeavored to see her clients the way God sees them.”

Dr. Smith recalled how she would question her mother’s compassion when applied to those who beat their spouses or robbed others for drug money.

But her mother would answer, “If I can’t see the good in those people, how can I help them?”

The heart of her message is best captured through the quote she shared and attributed to the theologian, Thomas Merton, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”

At the conclusion of her presentation, Dr. Smith surprised all attendees with a $10,000 donation for the Kanzetta Harris House.

Learn more about Dr. Smith’s online workshop, Trauma to Triumph.