WORLD Magazine’s Hope Award for Effective Compassion contest is drawing to a close this week, with online voting for the most successful faith-based charity ending on Friday. The magazine’s sixth annual contest showcases the success of four effective charities in helping individuals escape poverty and achieve sustained self-reliance.
This year’s contest, with finalists from four regions of the country, focuses specifically on charities that offer job training and work opportunities to help low-income people escape poverty. Decades of spending increases in means-tested government welfare programs have produced no significant change in the national poverty rate. Private, faith-based organizations, however—like the ones WORLD highlights—are effectively helping the poor achieve lasting self-sufficiency.
The contest’s South Region finalist is Challenge House, a faith-based nonprofit that aims to connect members of the city’s low-income community with the employment resources of local businesses. In addition to robust employment programs through partnerships with local businesses and Jobs for Life, Challenge House offers a variety of educational and life skills classes.
Through the distinctive red doors of the Bowery Mission Women’s Center, the contest’s North Region finalist, women of all backgrounds can find a second chance at independence and a flourishing life. During a 9- to 18-month program, career counseling and job placement programs help women achieve and maintain financial independence, while tutoring, mentoring, and community life restore their sense of self-worth. So far, 60 women have graduated from the center’s programs over the past five years.
Victory Trade School (VTS), the Midwest Region finalist, prepares previously unemployed men with skills to enter the culinary arts industry by certifying students in seven areas of food production and restaurant management through a one-year program. Unlike many traditional trade schools, VTS students leave the program debt-free, with a GED and demonstrated leadership skills. As a result, VTS has an almost 90 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent job placement rate.
The West Region finalist, Hope Now for Youth, is successfully reaching out to young men involved in gangs and street violence. In addition to life skills classes and one-on-one mentoring, Hope Now for Youth equips young men with job skills and helps them find jobs, teaching them the values of personal responsibility and work ethic necessary to become self-reliant.
WORLD Magazine’s contest provides a glimpse into the world of faith-based organizations that are successfully assisting the poor and providing an effective alternative to the welfare state. The success and effectiveness of local organizations like these should be recognized and their position in civil society protected.
Private, faith-based institutions play a profound role in alleviating poverty by addressing the relational and social breakdown—like abuse, broken families, and addiction—that so often leads to material need. By understanding the root causes of poverty and accurately assessing the actual living conditions of the poor, policymakers can begin to implement effective antipoverty policy.
Likewise, policymakers must be careful to defend the conscience rights of these groups to believe and act according to their deeply held beliefs—the same beliefs that spur them to take care of the poor in the first place—and not curb their ability to serve with unfair hiring regulations or perverse interpretations of non-discrimination laws.
For more information on the success of faith-based organizations in alleviating poverty, check out WORLD Magazine’s Hope Awards contest. Recognizing the profound work of faith-based organizations to alleviating poverty, WORLD Magazine has also partnered with The Heritage Foundation to create Seek Social Justice, a six-week small group study that helps participants explore effective ways of helping the poor.