I am pleased to feature 22 year old, Cindy Christensen on the blog today. Cindy is a remarkable young adult who has overcome living in poverty. You would never guess looking at her that she has come from a place of physical and emotional lack. She now has two degrees, a fulfilling full time job, and tells her story to various audiences, hoping to make a difference in the way society responds to poverty. Her story is powerful. I was moved to hear about a caring adult who invested in her life and helped her get into University. A simple act, but a powerful outcome. I pray you can begin to see poverty as something we put up with for no good reason. Poverty is our problem and is solvable. If you care about safety for your children, you care about poverty. If you care about issues of human trafficking, you care about poverty. If you care about abuse, you care about poverty. Time to move that “caring” into action you didn’t even realize you had in you.
For me the definition of poverty is a perception that society has, on individuals such as myself, as an attempt to classify us as something they don’t understand. Despite my impoverished childhood, history of domestic violence, personal hardships, and challenges in regards to homelessness, I was able to overcome these difficulties in order to find opportunities. I believe there should be more success stories within Canada and the media, government and as well as Canadian citizens should celebrate these success stories. Poverty was not something that I chose be born in but it was something I was born into. Poverty was certainly not a choice for myself and not for others but it is a circumstance that needs to be dealt with by the combine effort of the community.
Growing up in poverty, I saw a misconception and a sense of alienation towards individuals who are classified as living in “poverty”. Society tends to ignore these people, turn a blind eye and shut away the door of opportunity, which in return drive these individuals to a life of crime, drugs, violence and unhappiness. Many believe that poverty does not affect them – in this sense I believe that they are wrong because poverty affects everyone. Poverty is not only about financial need but also social and emotional need. The unintended consequences of not caring about poverty is extremely detrimental – one that we in a thriving economy, and as Canadians cannot afford.
In the recent months, there have been multiple acts of violence. For example, the Toronto Eaton Centre shooting, University of Alberta triple homicide, and the most shocking Luka Rocco Magnotta incident. I believe all these events can be simplify as problems resulted from a need for emotional, social and as well as financial poverty. The cries for help from individuals were perhaps not answered within their local community or from their family members. In no way do I support the actions of these individuals; however, I stress that it is extremely important for us not only to care but to act against poverty because sooner or later the consequences of poverty will affect us all. Poverty is a controversial topic; however, it is crucial for us to take a stand against poverty, whether it is by helping your local neighbors, volunteering, donating or speaking about the issue. Your action is extremely in important and it could help positively shape the lives of those who are living in need.
In my case, I dealt with poverty my entire life. I remembered working 4 jobs while going to Junior High and High School. I remembered studying for my first year University exam during a cold winter’s night when the heater from my apartment broke. The apartment also flooded and I was required to pack my bags at 3 in the morning to sleep at the University of Calgary 24 hour’s library, and my exam was at 8 in the morning. These events helped to shape me and determine who I am today.
The choices that I made and the support that I received from the community truly inspired me to make a difference in my own life and the lives of others. I learn to disregard the barriers that society has built for me. I learn not to think of the past, what I failed to achieve, how my life was inadequate in comparison to others, the negative energy that surrounded me but I can do in the present and the future. I learned to understand what I can contribute to society and what I can achieve in the present and the future. I believe there should be more success stories in Calgary. It is also important for society to reach out and give individuals who are living in poverty a chance to succeed because you never know how your action can completely contribute towards changing someone else’s life for the better.
For more information, please check out the following interviews and articles Cindy has been featured in: