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Building Bridges at the Coalition

After lending his talents to the anti-hunger movement for more than 30 years, Coalition Against Hunger community organizer Derek Felton, continues to seek out opportunities that allow him to enhance his ability to support food pantries and soup kitchens in the Philadelphia region.  

For the last five weeks, Derek has been an active participant in the Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities anti-poverty training. The award-winning training developed by aha! Process, Inc. is an intensive that prepares participants to take on the role of facilitator so they can educate their communities about the impact and effects of poverty.  “My job as a Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator is to help people understand the culture of living in poverty,” Derek shares.

Bridges Out of Poverty educates communities about the psychological effects of poverty, while examining the effects of different types of poverty (generational, situational) that millions of people live with. The training includes five weeks of virtual in-class training followed by six months of presentation development and program implementation that is supported by a shadow trainer who provides support and instruction. At the conclusion of the class, participants leave with a certificate that represents their ability to teach the same lessons they have spent months learning about. 

One of the core values of the program is to help change mindsets of individuals who have never known hunger or been affected by poverty.  "When you’ve been taught a lot of things like, ‘people are lazy, uneducated, don't want to do anything’, you don’t know why they are like that... My job is to help the VIPs and any other Coalition partners understand poverty, the culture of people who live in poverty, the rules they live by so you can understand the situations in their lives," says Derek. 

In addition to educating groups that have never experienced poverty, facilitators can choose to share their own personal stories.  According to Derek, based on his own first-hand knowledge, “It was normal for me to eat one meal a day. Only time I saw three meals a day was on TV. It was normal for me to go to school without anything to eat. I’ve found out that through my own personal struggles coming out of poverty, this training made it more clear for me how I got from poverty to middle class. It made me understand some of the challenges that I had overcome.”

Derek is excited to help the Coalition and its partners learn about the complexities of poverty, “The next step is to train the staff. After I train the staff, I will reach out to some of our partners and invite them for the training.”