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I work in a small non-profit in a rural Maryland town. We have quite a variety of programs given our size, a lot of them geared to helping poor, underprivileged children. The children are mostly black. There is a big divide in our community, but not terrible animus, between whites and blacks. Of course, there are rich blacks and many poor whites; overall, however, the black community is much poorer and has more challenges than the white community.
In our summer youth camp for underprivileged elementary school kids, one hundred percent of them are black. We also have a mentoring program aimed at kids who have no good role models at home. The parents might be on drugs and are neglectful. The home might be fatherless. You know the scenarios.
So, we recruit mentors to help these children be given a better direction in life than they currently have. The problem we have is that that there are a lot of white, middle-class ladies who volunteer and very few black men who do the same. We need black men to mentor the many young black boys in the program. They are hard for us to recruit. We have tried to recruit from black churches without much success. We have advertised without much success.
I am not sure why we cannot get a good balance of mentors for these kids. Our organization knows that it does matter who mentors these kids. For boys, men are better than women (in general). For blacks, black adults of the same sex are best.
Some of our people have complained that we don’t need upper-middle-class white women telling black kids what they ought to do. There may be some truth to that, but it is these women who are always willing to step up and volunteer. Without them, our organization would not exist. Kudos to them. They are willing to help. On the other hand, we need a better outreach to the black community here. The only real communication with the black community is when we recruit kids for the programs. It is mostly moms and grandmas who want their kids/grandkids to participate in our programs.
I hope I do not sound like I am stereotyping. I am describing a problem as I perceive it. And my black coworkers see it the same way. We need black men as volunteers. They have not stepped up. I do not know why not. Perhaps they are not comfortable working with an almost white organization. I do not have a solution. I am not asking for one. But I am pointing out that there are still barriers between races and that is hurting our efforts to work together to solve problems. I am not blaming white people. (I am white.) I am not blaming black people.
At the same time, I am in no way suggesting that some kind of mentoring program will fix problems that are rooted in the home. It is a band-aid solution until those families let God straighten out their messes. But a few kids will be truly helped and we ought to do the best we can for them.
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