A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity

Analysis

How would you describe this book to someone? Critique it discussing things you liked, things you didn’t like, what you would change to make it better, if you would recommend it, why/why not. From each section in the book pick 2 chapters that impacted you and discuss why. Then look at the chapters that you chose, compare and contrast them, and see what overall themes emerge — why do you think these specific ones spoke to you? What does it tell you about yourself?

I really liked the structure of the book. The chapters were easy to follow dur to their layout, as well as their consistent placement of similar content. The structure layed out in this manner allowed me to relax mentally in my search for content, but rather let the style of the book guide me through the duration of the chapters. The chapters would normally start with a narrative of someone in a particular situation, it then would transition into a study or program that had been conducted and whether or not it had been successful. After this deeper analysis of the social issue, it lead into the possible solutions for the problem, followed by ways that the reader could get involved in said solution. The layout overall was easier to read than Hand to Mouth because of it’s structure and overall coverage of so many topics.

Giving Opportunity Wings

Chapter 4: The Land of Opportunity — If You Catch Them Early

This chapter discussed how important it was to reach children at a very young age. The nurses in the homes were incredibly beneficial to the child’s development and were able to offer jobs to the communities and skill and resources to the parents. More programs like this one can be implemented so that children might have better chances. When children read earlier, it helps them so much later on in school. I never thought about how imperative books were in households, but after reading this chapter, I want to donate all of the old books I have to churches to give to families.

Chapter 9: A Doctor Who Treats Violence

This chapter had a very interesting take on violence. I liked how it had a solution that did not involve the criminal justice department and used it’s own forms of authority — gangs — against itself. Some of the things that went on in the chapter were very upsetting but the solutions to them were not something that a structured form of government could have purposed.

The chapter made me rethink about how some subcultures work. It is not necessarily about eradicating gangs and high drug areas, but using the gangs as positive enforcements within low-income neighborhoods. They talked about one of the guys as the “Alpha Male,” it really made sense how that is all that the societies are looking for is a sense of leadership and self-government. The two rival gangs came together to stop a different gang massacre — these types of checks and balances are the types of solutions to our violence in society. Not eradicating gangs (the sense of self-government and power) but using them to maintain a semi-healthy environment if nothing else.

Compare and Contrast: I liked the approach of both of these chapters because they propose alternative solutions. I would have never thought that children’s books at a young age could solve so many problems in one community. And likewise with the Cure Violence approach to violence. These alternative solutions work within the community to prevent other issues. Sometimes large problems that need to be solved — prison reform and high crime rates — start with children’s books or violence interventions. The alternative solutions are what really appealed to me because I feel that we as a society try to pin the fault on one isolated thing that has nothing to do with the issue: they are criminals. This is an extremely false conclusion, and if we care about our society changing we need to look at deeper causes and different solutions.

Reforming the Art of Helping

Chapter 13: Scaling Social Good

This chapter did not attack issues through traditional ways. The bakery that hired homeless and others regardless of criminal record or background — this company now makes the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s and is able to support their employees through employment, child care, and other necessities. I did not see much consistency throughout this chapter because of the ways of attacking the issues. While one was attacking homelessness at one of the main sources, jobs, the Better World Books seemed to help out more indirectly through donations and other means. I saw both companies had used business to tackle certain social issues, but the ways that they did such was too different to be compared to one another. The healthy meals also greatly benefitted the students in food quality and for their longterm health.

Chapter 14: Doing Good While Being Big

This chapter goes through the production of a product that solves multiple problems in one cheap product: yogurt. But this is miracle yogurt for Bangladesh because it fights malnutrition in children, unemployment for the parents of these children, and the prosperity of the dairy farmers there. While all of these issues were not tackled with 100% efficiency, they were able to create an incredible demand for this yogurt and with it, an increase in their economy and future generations. The company that started this chain reaction was the same company that started Dannon — a very large company. Through the narrative of the different people that have been effected by this company, gives the chapter’s title validity. Dannon is a huge company, but regardless this large company has the know-how and the means to create incredibly change such as this.

Compare/Contrast: I enjoyed how both chapters were able to hone in on larger companies that filled a niche, these companies created jobs in a community where some where desperately needed and were able to instigate change in a community throughout a business format. The text mentioned how many times big business is seen as the cause of many issues such as poverty, food insecurity, etc, but these companies were able to change that idea of strictly self-interested corporations. While I am sure these business do have a significant amount of selfish gain, these companies began seeking societal change.

Give, Get, Live

Chapter 15: The Neuroscience of Giving: A Natural High

“Higher income boosts happiness until basic needs are met but not much after that” (240).

If this quote had been placed at the beginning of the chapter, I would have thought that it was false, but the introduction of the chapter involving the tragic story of a lottery winner and his misfortunes due to his higher income springboarded the chapter off with an example of this concept without stating the concept outright — which I thought was brilliant. This chapter unravels many different tales about how this concept is true. People are happy when their basic needs and desires are met: food, housing, clothing, health, income to support life, and a hope for the future are those basic needs and desires. I also really liked the statements that said that giving and helping others could become just as addictive as a drug or alcohol addiction. Not all addictions are bad, and this one seems pretty beneficial to have.

Chapter 17: Survival of the Kind

Survival of the fittest is not exclusive to individuals, but as a whole. If one group does not succeed, than the group will try to counteract it and help the individuals within the group to improve the whole. The image came to mind of a track race where everyone crosses the finish line together instead of individually. I loved reading about the innate psychological and biological factors behind altruism, some people are genetically wired to be more or less altruistic (I would never have thought this would be true). But this was not a “nature versus nurture” issue, it is all inclusive and is changed by anything. However, the people with the GG alleles are able to strongly influence others to be more altruism.

Compare/Contrast: These two chapters focused on the benefits of the giver. One chapter focused on how in the moment of volunteering, the volunteer is affected by dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin — neurotransmitters. Our brains correlate giving and helping others with satisfaction, addicition, and bliss. Makes me wonder why more people don’t have intense addictions to volunteering. While the other chapter focused more on the psychology of altruism and how money and other things change our drive to volunteer. The end of the chapter discussed Ugandan students donating to American students, this concept I think is good on the fundamentals of helping another country, however, the I think that this is a bit counter productive. Regardless of my personal issue with that specific choice, I think that the chapters were different in their approach to altruism; but they were alike in the sense that they focused on the more scientific evidence of the factors of altruism and this broad concept that there previously have not been much research on.

Synthesis

How does the material in this book connect to a) material you read, b) places you served at/places you visited/people you talked to. Describe how it fits with the learning objectives/student outcomes. Lastly, reflect on how you felt reading this book. What was inspirational? What was daunting? Who were activists that you admired?

Material Read During Course

So many of the resources for the class have been on niche topics; instead of criminal justice reform we looked at the death penalty and prison’s effects on people and instead of world hunger we focused on food stamps and food insecurity. The different resources for food insecurity, A Place at the Table, mostly were short-sweet and detailed; however, A Path’s structure made it easier to identify the overwhelming problem and then narrowed down the issues within a matter of sentences. This zoom effect throught the book tied in all of the concepts to their mutlitple larger issues. The other readings, such as Hand to Mouth, touched on how the issues all related, but this reading was able to tell a story about a bakery and in the same sentences told a story about homelessness, food and job insecurity, and big business.

Personal Activity and Volunteerism

When we visited ReStore our guide told us that non-profit’s most pressing problems are with fund distribution. When people donate money to a non-profit, they want to dedicate it for very particular issues, such as disaster relief. The issues lies when there are no dedicated funds to salaries or necessities to run a business, such as utility bills or rent for a location space.

This was the same issue that was had in Chapter 15, the chapter discussed issues of proper minerals and micronutrients in diets. Either scenario, the same applies:

“Sometimes essentials things just aren’t sexy,” (246).

“He who opens a school door closes a prison,” — Victor Hugo (72).

This quote, referring to the education of children, is applicable to Hearts and to Southern Center. These organizations dealt with the criminal justice system and the education of students from high-risk areas. Hearts has several programs that educate students for certain career paths, GED courses, and skill sets. A Path Appears noted how reading scores and other early academic skills were a more accurate indicator on whether a child would graduate high school. These early indicators are incredibly important in the development of a child which will possibly determine whether or not that child will be lead into an environment of crime.

Learning Objectives and Student Outcomes

This textbook really solidified a lot of the different concepts that we were only able to touch on throughout the course. My personal conviction throughout the course was that there were so many issues and I am unable to fix all of them! This book, thankfully, gave me a little room to breathe knowing that more people, companies, and organizations have invented amazing ways to combat so many of our issues in our society domestically and internationally. Throughout the course, I have seen issues that face the world and I have read intensively about how others have changed the world, however large or small, and knowing that I am able to do so as well.

Personal Reflection

This book is a keeper, mainly because it was very uplifting, but also because the solutions to our world’s issues are so new, yet simple, that I imagine that these solutions can be implemented in more of our society. If one organization can do any of these things — begin a nannying service that creates jobs and also boosts future graduation rates — than I like to think that some of these solutions can be widespread across other organizations and can solve issues across the nation. If nannies worked so well in that rural town in Timbuktu, then it can be implemented and (should) work in rural GA. The stories in this book are of people changing the way we change the world, and if these solutions can be so successful then they may be implemented widespread. The nannies were byfar my favorite activists, because it is a simple solution to a many of problems. I like to think that many issues can be this simple to solve.

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