Our staff and resources are organized to face a modern dilemma that has three interconnected parts. First, social services, while in the midst of doing a lot of good work, have slowly trained communities that systems are providing most of the care that people need. We don’t think that is a good idea for many reasons. Second, people who are seen as not-valued members of communities—because they have a disability, are homeless, poor, look different than other people, are too old or too young, or have recently come from another part of the world—often begin to believe they aren’t important citizens. That breaks our hearts wide open, because nothing could be further from the truth. We need the gifts and talents of every citizen if we intend to call ourselves a healthy community. Third, the trainings and certificates provided to professional helpers have created a world of expertise that shuts out many citizens who would, if invited, be more than willing to help. Because of this three-part dilemma, everything we do works at the intersection of helping organizations, people who want some kind of help, and their surrounding community.
Equally important: Professionals and activists who are helping individuals and communities get stronger deserve our support, respect, and a chance to learn and heal. Helping of any kind, while full of enormous rewards, is often very hard work. Community organizers are out at evening meetings when others are home with their families. Social service workers and educators struggle with high stress/high emotion situations while, at the same time, the rules of the systems they work in seem hell-bent on making it hard to do their work in the best way. These are people with deep commitment and deep feeling. If our intention is not to eat them up and spit them out, they must be given regular opportunity for learning and regeneration so they, too, can have the kind of lives they are helping others work towards.