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How Best to Help Children

An Essay by Candidate for Durham City Council Brenda B. Burnette


Recently, I was talking with a friend about some "societal concerns"-how best to address them, and how best to impact the community. Crime and youth we both agreed were biggies. How do we impact the lives of children was the one we dwelt on the most. One thing was most obvious: in order to impact the lives of children, we must impact families.

Alice recently finished the Work First Program. She took the Nurses Assistant Program at Durham Technical Community College. She has grown children, teenage children, children under ten years of age and grandchildren. She has been booted off the system. She registered with an agency that hires Nurse Assistants. She worked forty hours in three days. Her mother and older children helped with the younger ones. I talked with her last night. She was tired and had a terrible cold. "I am trying to figure out how to get the car fixed," she said. However, she is confident that things will work out. It is obvious too, that she needs lots more support and encouragement to keep going. If Mama is happy and doing fine, the children will thrive. She told me that one of the children asked, "Mama, are you a doctor?" "No," she said. Another asked, "Mama, are you a nurse?" Alice said that she answered, "Yes. I am going to take that Registered Nurse course too," she said.

Judy works at a daycare center. She started out driving the van. Then she was moved to the kitchen. She was offered a position as Teacher's Assistant and in time, became Lead Teacher. She is now Assistant Director at the daycare center. Her children say, "My Mama started out as. . .," and then they tell the story. Judy told me that her youngest daughter "received her papers" for the academically gifted program at school.

[How do we best help the children? We help them by showing the good examples and by being good role models. This starts at home. Children must see that hard work pays off.]

One evening some neighbors and I were talking. Randy said to Vera, "You know that they are offering GED classes at St. Mark Church. That's where Tanika and I go." Tanika is his wife. They have three children. Randy is a landscaper by trade. Vera responded rather proudly. "I have my high school diploma." Judy reminded us how her daughter had gotten into AG. Vera added that her daughter was promoted to 5th grade.

A couple of weeks later, I was walking through the community telling folks about an upcoming community meeting. I knocked on Randy's door. "Come on in," he said and ushered me to a back bedroom where Tanika was busily typing a flyer on their new typewriter. Randy was planning a meeting to address the needs of the children in the community. His three children were playing outside. I told him to be sure to add that we would be electing new officers and discussing plans for the Annual Family Day.

[About three years ago we had a community garden here. In the evening all of the children and some parents would come to the garden with a bowl or jar of water. Vera was garden coordinator. I remember one morning she and I were setting out tomatoes. I think that we were "subconsciously" trying to see who could dig a row the fastest. Vera had mastered the technique. Sometimes, I think that the community garden and the hard work experienced with it and the fruits thereof, helped to inspire some of us to other challenges in our personal lives. No one has time for a garden now. "Everybody" is working. Although our apartment complex is now under Durham Housing Authority Management, Randy and another neighbor cut their own grass. Randy has roses in his yard and Vera has beautiful house plants.]

I knocked on Love's door to tell her about the meeting. "Will it be for the children?" she asked. Yes, it will be for the children, I responded.

Now again and aside to all of this-regardless of our economical status, whether we are self-employed or under-employed, president of a company or president of a community group, when we walk and when we talk, we must think about the children.

And it does start at home, deep in the bowels of a community. The best way to help the children is to help ourselves.


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