A Six Part Blog Series on how YOU can ACT in BALTIMORE.
We are more than a week from the death of Freddie Gray, and a few days from violence in my city, Baltimore. If it’s your city, and even if it is not, you might be asking yourself, “What can I do?” So often we are overwhelmed by devastating events and don’t know where to start.
I remember donating blood after 9/11. I was desperate to do it. It was a challenge to even find a site where I could donate, due to the crush of donors. And it felt good. But, guess what? My blood was discarded. It wasn’t needed. It couldn’t be used within the time frame that it remains viable for transfusion. The crazy thing was that I knew this as I was donating. I was told that likely they would have to discard my blood because I donated after the national realization that there was going to be very little in the way of rescue. But I needed to do something, and that was all I could think to do.
I’ve been thinking about that blood donation a lot in the past few days. How much I felt the need to help, and how I picked the only alternative I could contemplate.
Now I know that there options. Yes, you can clean up parts of the city affected, and that was needed! You can peacefully march in support of the cause you support.
But we all know that there are clearly systemic problems in our city. It actually doesn’t matter who you think is at fault. It is clear that there is brokenness: material, educational, spiritual, relational. We are broken people, all of us. And it is playing out in our city.
So what can you do? Instead of doing the equivalent of wasting your blood as I did in a Red Cross site, or wasting your blood on the streets of Baltimore as others might in the future, you can connect with a vetted, honest and caring local non-profit that seeks to improve the lives of our neighbors in Baltimore City.
In this six-part series, I will highlight Church of the Nativity‘s six local missions partners. These are six vetted, honest and caring local non-profits that love our city and want to help.
Did you know that one in 40 people in the city of Baltimore is HIV positive and in many zip codes the rate increases to 1 in 21 people?
Me either. Until I met the leadership of HopeSprings.
Responding to God’s call to unite the Church of Baltimore to respond to the epidemic by providing hope and healing through the eradication of HIV and AIDS and its stigma, HopeSprings was born. HopeSprings, a local 501(c)3, has trained hundreds of volunteers from 50+ local congregations to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS; equip those God has called to serve in the epidemic regionally and nationally; and partner with community agencies providing avenues of engagement through service.
The connection may not be obvious right away. What does HIV have to do with the tensions we have seen in Baltimore?
It’s a piece in the puzzle of disempowerment.
When we start to see how systemic poverty contributes to situations of disempowerment, we start to see the connection. The effects of HIV, outside of the clear medical effects, include decreased employability and employment, and therefore material poverty, as well as the possible social stigma and loss of family and friends as a result of the disease.
That makes people vulnerable. And vulnerable people can be marginalized by society, and they need to be empowered.
By getting people tested, offering people medical care, structuring small groups of people around them to assist with things from medical appointments to job mentoring, people become less vulnerable. They become more empowered.
HopeSprings equips volunteers to provide holistic services, like financial mentoring for vulnerable groups (I’m privileged to be a part of such a group right now). Financial stability is an empowering factor.
Think outside the box. Outside the box of our minds, the box of people protesting and protecting, the box of our collective, myopic views of what causes a city to implode.
Let’s think broader, longer term. Cleaning up glass? Very important. Peacefully supporting those who feel disempowered? Incredibly significant.
Partnering with a great local non-profit to assist in the long, gradual process of empowering the disempowered? That’s critical.
And for those who are Christians, that’s long-term sacrifice, an emulation of your Savior.
That’s not an option; it’s a responsibility.
To donate to HopeSprings, click here.
To volunteer with HopeSprings, click here.