Dream the impossible dream!

Many years ago I sat across the table from an elderly gentleman. He reached across and put his hand on mine and said, “Wasn’t that wonderful when that young lady sang? She has such a beautiful voice. When she sings she believes what she is saying.”

The young lady sang in church. She had found a place where she could discover a talent. In the process a talent found a place to be nurtured and given to those who would accept its blessing.

Dream the impossible dream! Over 20 years ago a group of people began to ask young people to dream, to experiment with a dream. It seemed like such a simple thought. We asked what is it you want to do with your life and how you believe that can be accomplished.

It wasn’t long before we discovered massive numbers of variables. These variables became roadblocks. They were real. To overcome them would cost money. We started to use a bonus system that honored the words and dreams of each young person. In this process we gave bonuses to people for daring to dream. The reward did not come for climbing the mountain, it came for accepting the challenge to climb the mountain. Today, over 20 years later young people are still accepting the challenge and succeeding greatly.

Poverty has become the birth canal for a new creative way to begin life. The contract and bonus process is one form of Cash Transfer Programs that are springing up around the world.

Dr. Candace Miller from the Center for International Health has joined with others to look at one such project known as the Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot in Malawi.* The results are the same. People are succeeding. Society is succeeding.

The variables are the same: the ability to buy basic needs, nutrition, adult and child time use, child health and growth, care-giving, child labor and schooling, migration, and health seeking patterns.

These words easily fall into the categories we used to classify why people were contracting.**

The dream was not without its complexities. The solution did not always come overnight. But as each contract began to connect with the next contract the plan became visible. Variables may have started out as obstacles but eventually they became stepping stones to a new life. The Malawi people and street kids in North America have something in common; dreams that did not remain impossible.

* Evaluation of the Mchinji Social
Cash Transfer Pilot
Center for International Health
Boston University
Boston Massachusetts USA
Dr. Candace Miller
USA 001 617 414 1216 or 001 617 272 6392
Malawi 08 782 129
Centre for Social Research
University of Malawi
Maxton Tsoka
08 838 508

** An excerpt from the book The Back Door, an experiment or an alternative.

The steps can be in one of the following categories:
1. Housing: Steps taken toward obtaining an appropriate, safe, independent living situation, landlord negotiation as required, and appropriate life style issues addressed within the chosen situation.
2. Jobs: Any steps which address issues related to preparation for and obtaining employment and dealing appropriately with problems arising within the job situation.
3. Education: Steps taken toward educational assessment, academic upgrading and planning for work.
4. Personal: Any steps taken to deal with personal life concerns and coping, e.g. relationships, attitudes, appearance.
5. Planning: Thinking, formulating possible action/alternatives in the area of life concerns.
6. Volunteer work: Giving of one’s own time and effort to contribute back to a community which is supportive of the participant.
7. Finances: Any steps to acquire knowledge or principles of action relating to money management or awareness of spending philosophy.
8. Legal: Steps taken to deal with past or current legal concerns to ensure their appropriate expedition, therefore enabling freedom to pursue the changes in life necessary to move off the street.
9. Leadership: Formal involvement in coaching, supporting by active example, or participation with others in positive movement in areas of life concerns.
10. Drug/Alcohol: Any step taken to acknowledge the reality of personal substance abuse and to address issues of rehabilitation (for example, detox or participation in twelve step type programs).
11. Problem solving: Steps representing any thought or action given to defining the problem, seeking alternative solutions, acting upon this, and processing the outcome.
12. Identification: Obtaining acceptable identification as necessary to integrate into the community.
13. Other: Any steps not specifically designated in the above categories but which deal with issues and concerns critical to the participant in his/her movement off the street.

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