“A Path Appears” Shows Silver Linings Amid Social Problems

Barbara DiGangi
Feb 23, 2015 · 4 min read

We live in a world bombarded by content. There are feeds, blogs, podcasts, and breaking stories at our fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The sad part is a ton of it is negative. It is news that kills our spirits, breaks our hearts, or angers us. As a result, many people detach from society’s biggest problems. Before feelings of empathy or heartache surface, they swipe onward, change the channel, or instead indulge in the latest episode of The Walking Dead. They may be thinking, how would I help? What would I do? Where would I even begin?

When I decided to pursue a career in social work, I too was feeling overwhelmed. I’ve always been a macro-level person. I wanted to end poverty. Empower women. Stop inequality. Make an impact.

But where could I begin? What direction should I head?

How could I contribute?

I soon found out how during my first position in the field. It was 2007 and I was an intern for a Medicaid-Waiver program, Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), at Family and Children’s in New York. Kids eligible for the program had a history of being psychiatrically hospitalized for a period of at least 30 days and were diagnosed with a Serious Emotional Disturbance.

My job was to work one-to-one on goals with these children and their families in their homes and communities. Talk about scaling down from the macro-level!

I soon realized the power of intervening in living rooms and at kitchen tables.

I was working with families on their turf and in their comfort zone. I experienced the bare walls, roaches, abuse, family dynamics, and shopping on WIC that the children’s teachers, clinicians, and other professionals didn’t. I was able to see the whole picture and its complexity.

I wasn’t influencing policy but I realized I was making a difference in the lives of these individuals. I realized that in order for me to even think about making any changes on a larger level, I first needed to understand what’s happening at home; in the living room and at the kitchen table.

Little did I know that I’d be at that same program for five years, manage another waiver program for two, and be so inspired by these experiences to create Project Bond.

A Path Appears

Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are inspiring others to have the same realization that I did.

There is no magic wand but we each have our own talents, voice, a pair of hands and feet to bring to the table. It only takes one person to be the difference for another. This is evident in the documentary when we see each person’s story shift after receiving help.

You may not end poverty but you sure can end poverty for one person or even a group of people.

And, imagine if everyone helped one person or group — the combined impact could be tremendous.

We see in the documentary and in the book that there are programs and individuals out there blazing a path. They saw an opportunity to create change and they seized it.

These are individuals who started small, saw a need, and set out to address it. These are evidence-based programs that work and they need to be replicated and supported.

Photo via A Path Appears

A Path Appears reveals the pain and trauma happening in our own backyard: sex trafficking, domestic violence, poverty and abuse. However, it also shows what’s working and how valuable the assistance is for those being helped.

We can contribute.

Here are a few ways to get you started.

Empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of others, especially women experiencing gender-based violence. Understand the complexity, the power dynamic and the cycle of social issues. Understand what is underlying what you see on the surface. Encourage others to do the same. Empathy is the first step towards creating change.

We need to put an end to victim blaming and shaming women who are being trafficked or abused. Instead of questioning or pointing a finger at the victim, we need to teach men to not rape or abuse.

Hint: Following Twitter hashtags like #ItsOnUs and #WhyIStayed will help foster more empathy.

Speak Up. Do you know someone who is an abusive relationship? Encourage her to seek help. Do you know of an organization that is doing great work? Lend your voice.

One aspect of poverty is the lack of social capital, the value of social networks and connection with others. How can you be a resource for a person in need?

Become an advocate or ambassador for the causes you believe in. Start hashtagging, writing, and posting on social media to spread awareness.

Act. Visit http://apathappears.org/act/ to donate, petition, volunteer, or buy for good. There are many, simple ways to support the evidence-based initiatives that were featured in the film and book.

Innovate. If you see a problem in the world (no matter how big or small), maybe you are that person to solve it. Why not? Poverty and gender-based violence are complex issues but this also means there are numerous intervention points.

In an age of technology and entrepreneurship, there is great potential to create opportunities for those who need them.

I leave you with one question:

How will you make a path appear?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the film and book as well as how you’re making a difference. Tweet me @barbaradigangi.

Barbara DiGangi

Written by

I play where digital + intersectional feminism collide. Social impact strategist. Writer. Social worker. Activist. Views my own. www.barbaradigangi.com

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