Written by Lamar Stockton, Help One Now COO
I remember my first big AP Biology test, circa 1994. In the final question, we were asked to draw and label a diagram of the cell cycle. I was at a loss. I didn’t even know cells had a cycle, so I proceeded to meticulously draw and label a bicycle. My teacher was not impressed. I broke the cycle. Little did I know that I would eventually dedicate my life to breaking another cycle…the cycle of extreme poverty.
Cycles are stubborn and not easily broken. And the cycle of poverty is no exception. Extreme poverty begets extreme poverty; such is the nature of cycles. When you’re born with nothing, you have nothing, and you’re given nothing, it’s easy to assume, create and accept the reality that you deserve nothing and will die with nothing. The deck of injustice is stacked against you, and there’s no way to pull yourself out on your own…after all, it’s a cycle. It takes a powerful outside force to break a cycle, and, in the case of extreme poverty, we believe that outside force is PARTNERSHIP.
It’s good to work together. We are better when we have other people we can rely on who can help us carry our problems, our fears, and our successes… It takes every one of us together to do great things. I cannot do something by myself, you cannot do something by yourself…everybody must do what they are called to do in order to bring the change that is necessary in the community and in the world. All of us together, when we play our part and do what we are meant to do, we are all the heroes.
These are the words of my hero, mentor, colleague, partner, and friend, Jean Alix Paul, as we stroll through the sweltering streets of South Philly on an August afternoon. We covered a myriad of topics, but at this moment, he was schooling me on the importance of partnership. While I always have plenty to learn from my Haitian brother, he was presently preaching to the choir. You see, at Help One Now, we believe in PARTNERSHIP. It’s our jam. It’s woven into the fabric of our DNA…we know no other way. That’s not to say we’ve perfected it – we will always strive to partner better – but we have settled in our hearts and minds that it’s the best road to progress.
Partnership, friendship, collaboration, dedication…these values are the building blocks to what we like to call the Circle of Empowerment. As Jean Alix said, everyone has a part to play, and when we come together, doing what we are meant to do, we accomplish great things. At Help One Now, that circle of empowerment consists of 1) our generous donors, supporters, and advocates (let’s affectionately refer to you as our HON Family), 2) our HON team & board, and 3) our partners around the world. Our HON Family provides the fuel for all that we do. That fuel includes resources, expertise, encouragement, wisdom, networking, and more. Our team and board serve as a conduit for that fuel…we work hard every day to keep the work moving forward, expand the pipeline of opportunities, and build a healthy organization that will outlive all of us. And finally, the brilliant local leaders with whom we partner are doing the hard and beautiful work of community transformation at the ground level. They are the visionaries. They are the experts. They are the practitioners. They take the fuel and make the engine run.
And when these three forces work together in partnership…we see the circle of empowerment break the cycle of poverty in ALL of us. Circles breaking cycles. That’s something I can get behind.