– Abraham Pabbathi
1.5 million, that’s the number of kids who go to sleep without a home each year. No we are not talking about some third world country; these are statistics from America (homelesschildrenamerica.org). Most of these kids don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. Most of these kids are also at high risk of developing chronic health problems and needless to say they are also twice as likely as other kids to drop out of school. In spite of the best efforts of the government these kids are mostly left to depend on aid agencies for food and shelter.
One organization that is helping out these kids in innovative ways is the Homeless Education Program (HEP) of Milwaukee Public School system. Among other things HEP provides homeless students with free breakfasts and lunches, books and supplies, tutoring, homework help, and immunizations. Over the past couple of years the Vibha Action Center in Milwaukee has supported this program by donating 10% of the proceeds of its fund raisers. These donations helped HEP buy gift cards towards GOODWILL for families in need of clothing and household items. Janis one of the coordinators of this program gave an example of a mother and her three children who were on the run from an abusive relationship and had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Janis was able to help them out with these gift cards. Among other things these donations from Vibha were also used to buy school items and back packs. HEP keeps track of all the gift cards and items they give out to ensure that the funds are being used responsibly.
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Wisconsin leads the nation with the highest rate of binge drinking among women? Alcoholism and substance abuse not only affects the women who indulge in it but also their children who live with them. Children of addict mothers are far more likely to become addicts themselves. More over studies have shown that 70-90% of all welfare spending on children is due to parental substance abuse and addictions. One study comparing children of alcoholics (aged 6-17 years) with children of psychiatrically healthy medical patients found that children of alcoholics had elevated rates of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) measured against the control group of children.
One organization which pioneered the inclusion of children with their addict mothers in a residential treatment setting is Meta House in Milwaukee. Meta House, Inc. is a nationally recognized, gender-responsive substance abuse treatment program dedicated to helping women through the progression of recovery. Allowing the mothers to live with their children while undergoing treatment helps both the mothers and their children who get the help they need to break the generational cycle of abuse.
The Milwaukee Action center of Vibha has been supporting this organization for the past 3 years with free tickets for their annual song and dance program called Vibha Vibe. This gives the residents of Meta house a night of entertainment filled with Indian food and some multicultural dance numbers. It’s a heartwarming experience for the Vibha volunteers to read the thank you notes that these residents write back after having enjoyed the show. One such thank you note is shown below.