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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Cycling to End Poverty

Q U I C K S C A N

Break (Brake) the Cycle
Doing Your Part
For Teens: Living in Poverty
For Kids: Every Penny Counts

 

When I was a little kid, I used to ride my bike for hours. My friends and I rode to the park, the library, each other’s houses, the store, anywhere we were allowed.

So two years ago when my husband, Mark, and I decided to buy new bikes for Christmas, I thought I would just hop on and take off like when I was younger. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Fifteen minutes into our first ride, I discovered just how much endurance, strength, faith and energy it really takes to ride a bike—at least for any respectable distance or amount of time.

Break (Brake) the Cycle

That is why I was so inspired when I heard that last month 20 bicycle riders—ranging in age from 19 to 72—left San Francisco on a cross-country bicycle journey to raise awareness of poverty in the United States and the need to promote permanent solutions toward breaking the cycle of poverty. Nearly 33 million Americans live below the poverty line.

The bike ride, cleverly named the "Brake the Cycle of Poverty Tour," is being sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD is the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty, social justice program. It was established by the bishops in 1970 to help people overcome poverty. The approach is empowerment programs that encourage and foster self-sufficiency. Each year, CCHD distributes grants to over 300 community-based projects geared toward improving neighborhoods, educating children, creating jobs and much more.

The bike ride will travel through 12 states and 37 Catholic dioceses before ending on August 1 in Washington, D.C. Along the way, according to Mary Wright, CCHD Education Coordinator and organizer of the event, "We will spend time in the evenings with grassroots groups and Catholic parishioners interested in learning about challenges related to the poor and low-income population. We will talk about effective ways to eliminate permanently the effects of poverty and urge people to take action."

Further information on the Brake the Cycle Poverty Tour is available at www.brakethecycle.org.

Doing Your Part

Poverty is something few of us want to think about. But the truth is that one in 10 families in America is currently living in poverty.

If you are fortunate enough not to be one of these families, stop and ask what your family can do to help others who are not as fortunate. CCHD offers a number of suggestions and opportunities on its Web site for ways you can help break the cycle of poverty.

  • Do you know what the U.S. government considers to be the poverty line? Or which cities have the highest poverty rates? Visit www.PovertyUSA.org to find the answers to those questions and many more.
  • Find out more about CCHD (www.usccb.org/cchd) and the programs they are involved in. Look for ways your family can support the work they do.
  • Help organize a solidarity ride or event in your parish. (If the ride has already passed you by, organize an event anyway in order to help raise awareness in your community about poverty.) For tips on how to organize an event, visit www.brakethecycle.org.
  • Most importantly, once this particular event is over, don’t forget about the issue of poverty. For instance, shop at stores run by individuals trying to break out of poverty.
  • Mark your calendar to observe Poverty Awareness Month in January.
  • Check out the book When Did I See You Hungry? by documentary filmmaker and author Gerard Thomas Straub. The book, which also has an accompanying video, is a photographic and textual meditation on the plight of the poor. (The book and video are both available from St. Anthony Messenger Press at www.AmericanCatholic.org or by calling 1-800-488-0488.)
  • Watch the video Among the People: Facing Poverty in America. (This video, originally broadcast on the Hallmark Channel and many NBC affiliates, may be available at your local library or video store. If not, you can order it at www.usccb.org/cchd/povertyusa/orderform.html.)

Next Month: Praying as a Family

 

 

For Teens: Living in Poverty

Can't imagine what it's like to live in poverty? Nearly 12 million children and teens under the age of 18 don't have to imagine what it's like. For them, poverty is a daily reality.

In order to understand what they are faced with daily, try the following exercise. Enlist some of your friends to take part with you.

For one week, be extra aware of where you spend your money. Keep track of how much you spend on fast food, clothes, personal items, etc. Before you make each of these purchases, ask yourself whether or not it is something you really need. If you determine it's something you don't absolutely need, try to go without.

For instance, you may really want those new shoes that are on sale, but if you buy them you won't be able to afford to eat lunch in the mall's food court. Do you buy the shoes and skip lunch? Do you pass on the shoes and have lunch? Or do you skip both and make yourself a sandwich when you get home?

By keeping a closer eye on your spending habits, you'll be surprised at how much more you realize where your money goes.

For Kids: Every Penny Counts

Sometimes it's hard for kids your age to figure out ways to help with big problems like poverty. But it's important to realize that every little bit of help counts.

So here's how you can help. Start collecting your spare change, do some extra chores around the house or neighborhood for a donation, or host a lemonade stand on a hot afternoon. (Make sure you first get an adult's permission and help.) Then donate the money you earn to either CCHD or a local organization that helps people become independent, successful members in society.

Remember that, whether you earn a lot or a little, every penny counts.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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