Why Fairness Matters

9y. Yorkship - Ms. Rojas Math Cards

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard a child, or an adult acting like a child, say, “It’s not fair”? Or how about the retort, “Well, sometimes life’s just not fair”? Sometimes there IS more ice cream in one bowl than another, or you DO have to work on a holiday, or someone else DOES get more credit than for something. It isn’t fair, but it also isn’t fatal. It’s more like a bump you have to endure along your journey. It really doesn’t matter.

That’s not the “fairness” for which we took our name, Delaware Valley Fairness Project. Ours is more the fairness that’s lacking for a child born into poverty, or for a wounded family without enough money for food and shelter. It’s what’s missing for the medically addicted, the mentally ill, the victims of discrimination and the countless unwanted in our communities. These are the people whose voices are silent but whose eyes tell us that it’s not fair, if we just look into them.

The unfairness these people suffer isn’t the bump in the road. It doesn’t go away after a day, week, or year. It’s life-defining, multi-generational, and what some would call systemic, And it’s harmful – to those who live it and to all the rest of us, too.

When unfairness flourishes, everyone is its victim. Consider drug addiction, violence, pan-handlers, the decrepit condition of streets and houses in economically distressed neighborhoods. Consider the taxes used to address these social conditions. Consider the fear engendered by the anger of the oppressed. These are the fruits of unfairness.

Delaware Valley Fairness Project’s mission is to lessen these effects by attacking their common root cause: poverty. Poverty limits human potential. Poverty limits human life span. It robs children of childhood. It crushes self-confidence. Poverty strips people of dignity. It gives rise to alternative means to survival, anti-social pathways to self-respect.

Poverty is unfair, and it is that unfairness we work against. Fairness matters because fairness would mean the end of poverty. Fairness means well-resourced schools for everyone, fair-paying jobs, and training to qualify for jobs. It means dignity for individuals, hope for families, childhood for children.

Fairness matters because everyone’s life becomes better. Dignity, hope, opportunity: better than drugs, violence, and slums. Think about it.


Chromebooks, a Fish Tank and Bookmaking in Southwest Philly

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March 21 was an exciting day for DVFP and S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School in Philadelphia. At an assembly at the school that day, DVFP for the first time in its brief history fulfilled educator applications for classroom supplies, projects and class trips. DVFP founder Ed Riehl presented sixteen teachers with fulfillment awards for 11 Chromebooks, a dozen ‘boogie board’ eWriters, multiple sets of mythology books, a fish tank and the components for a desktop bookmaking center, among others. Funding was also provided to assist with the cost of a class trip to Washington, DC.

The Chromebooks will be used by the students to use specially-designed programs to improve their reading and math skills. The eWriters offer a creative approach to writing skills. The mythology books and bookmaking equipment are two innovative projects to enhance both the reading and writing skills of the students. The fish tank will make real the kindergartners’ study of living organisms, while teaching responsibility and compassion.

The Mitchell fulfillment awards are part of DVFP’s Educator Assistance Pilot Project intended to allow DVFP to determine whether the design of its Educator Assistance Program best meets its objective of improving learning opportunities for children living in impoverished neighborhoods. Convinced that education is the key to lessening the grip of poverty, DVFP’s education program is geared to strengthen schools serving economically distressed communities rather than looking to create alternatives to those schools.

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The pilot project could only succeed with the collaboration of schools and teachers. Three schools were asked to participate and to become our Founding Partner Schools. Mitchell, being the first to accept DVFP’s invitation, is DVFP’s Founding Partner School Number 1. DVFP extends its thanks to everyone at Mitchell, but particularly to its Principal, Stephanie Andrelevich, who gave permission for the project, Tara Shaw-Caruso who serves as the project coordinator at Mitchell, and the fifteen other teachers who took the time to put together some very creative projects for DVFP to consider: Andrea Evans, Elizabeth Carroll, Keena Core, Nicole Flores, Dawnmarie Hackett, Lesley O’Brien, Jason Lerner, Rachel O’Day, Kenya Lassiter and the Special Ed Team, Emily Sharon, Tyesha Lewis, Charlena Watson, Kimberly Fail, Karen Burrell, and Allison Wudarski. Thanks to a great team!


All’s Well at the Well

Pastor Violet Little and her Welcome Church, a church without walls that ministers to the homeless in center city Philadelphia and beyond, came to us this spring with a request to assist with funding for shelter for a group of 12 women. The Welcome Church had found a location, but with no budget to make the place suitable for the women, Pastor Violet had a dilemma. Through DVFP’s Small Nonprofit Assistance Program, we were able to provide just enough financial support for The Welcome Church to open “The Well,” which is now ‘home’ to the otherwise unsheltered women. As a volunteer wrote: “In the basement of a small Episcopal church on a side street, two of the women of The Well looked up. . . other women arrived. They put down their carts or bags after a long day on the streets, free for a while from the burdens of homelessness. . . “home” didn’t open until 7:30 pm, and would send them back to the streets 12 hours later.. . the dingy basement hall was truly a place of hope.” Congratulations to Pastor V, to the Welcome Church and its volunteers, and most especially to the women at The Well.


Keeping Their Clothes and Papers Safe

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Simple needs are sometimes difficult to meet – especially if you are among the less fortunate. Old St. Joseph’s Church has for years been meeting some of the simple needs of men who are experiencing homelessness or teetering on the edge of homelessness. Three days a week, the church’s outreach program provides a 3-course meal to some 60 men who come together as a community to share friendship with each other.

The Old St. Joseph’s program – Faith, Food & Friends – does not proselytize; it simply welcomes those who come. Most of the men are regulars and so know each other, Mary Freedman who coordinates the program, and the volunteers (many of whom have been coming to cook a meal and serve the men weekly for several years).

Old St. Joseph’s offers the men more than community and a meal. It fills some needs that men on the street or near it have: a place to get their mail; a few hygiene supplies; a pair of socks when they are available. One need Old St.Joseph’s was struggling to meet was for backpacks to replace the plastic grocery bags the men use to protect their clothes and documents. Mary contacted DVFP a few months ago, told us about the problem, and submitted an application for assistance in getting the backpacks. It was a quick decision. Today, with the assistance from DVFP. Mary and the outreach program are replacing the plastic grocery bags with secure backpacks, making life “a little better” for that community. Great that Mary saw the need and did something about it!


Quilting, Gardening, Reading and Running and Walking in Style in Camden

Yorkship Family School in the Fairview section of Camden is our New Jersey Founding Partner School. Thanks to efforts of DVFP’s good friends, Laura and Jose Sanchez, DVFP was introduced to Yorkship and able to connect with Sue Bowen, who teaches 4th grade at the school. Sue in turn introduced DVFP to Tracey Reed-Thompson, the Principal, and Tia McIntosh, Yorkship’s Lead Teacher, both of whom enthusiastically agreed to have Yorkship collaborate with DVFP in our Educator Assistance Pilot Program.

Yorkship teachers and staff submitted thirteen applications for assistance to DVFP just before Easter. Nine days after Easter, DVFP’s president, Ed Riehl, presented fulfillment awards in varying degrees for all thirteen projects. As we found at Mitchell Elementary School in Philadelphia, so too at Yorkship were the teacher requests both creative and varied. With support from DVFP, Yorkship will undertake a school-wide quilting project to build community; plant a sustainable vegetable garden; acquire a K-8th Grade guided-reading library; and outfit 20 middle-school students with track and field suits. In addition, thirty-four middle-schoolers will soon be wearing DVFP-provided Fit Bits and, with associated workbook assignments, developing wellness and healthy lifestyle behaviors.9zz. Yorkship - track meet (060116)

Congratulations to our Camden pilot project partner school, Ms. Reed-Thompson and Ms. McIntosh, and
Yorkship’s teachers: Karen Rojas, Eileen Anderson, Linda Brown-Bartlett, Sue Bowen, Nancy DiBattista, Courtney Gray, Helena Savage, Patrica Sheehan and Joe Williams. You’re doing good things for the youth of Camden!