Last night, I attended a cocktail party at The Ship for an organization called Rise. Who knew what this was? Not me. But I do now, and I'm sure that it was no coincidence that I ended up at the party. In fact, it changed my life.
Back in February, I met a social worker, Dana, at a symposium at New School University about the tragic conditions for the 25,000 children under five who live in shelters in New York. I emailed her after we met, and she invited me to the Rise event. I never looked Rise up, but Dana told me I knew Nora, the head of Rise. It turns out the Rise is led by Nora McCarthy, who consulted with me when she adopted two Ethiopian kids years ago. That is the way of my life now. After decades of being a pediatrician, and never saying "no" to a meeting with yet another nice person, it seems like I know everyone. I came to the party thinking and hoping that something might happen and it did.
Here's the blurb on Rise's mission:
Founded in 2005, Rise combats pervasive negative stereotypes of child welfare-affected families. Rise trains parents to write about their experiences with the child welfare system in order to support parents and parent advocacy and guide child welfare practitioners and policymakers in becoming more responsive to the families and communities they serve.
Rise and Worldwide Orphans have a lot in common: both are very simple organizations that are wildly effective with metrics off the wall for this kind of creative treatment. The very intimate, organic, deep psycho-social work that we both do changes kids live, individual by individual, creating a feeling of value and resilience.
As I always do, I ran into people I knew at his party and made some new friends... Maria, Nancy and Ellen. I love laughing with strangers and sharing war stories about our work. I told a funny story or two about job interviews when I was just getting out of pediatric residency, where two very famous New Yorkers were very disrespectful to me, and I didn't get those jobs. Well, you likely know the rite of passage of being dissed by those we look up to and learning that these people are not who we thought they are at all. (I hope that won't be me, ever.)
Suddenly the chatting and drinking stopped and Nora spoke to us off the cuff. She was charming and authentic and young and sweet and passionate and I loved her. We all loved her and then two women read their narratives about their lives.
They were both drug-addicted women who had been in foster care because their mothers were drug addicts who they lost their children to the foster system; this is called the "transmission of intergenerational poverty" and Rise has helped them to find their voices so they could stop the cycle, find their purpose, and get their children back.
Their writing was gorgeous. They read flawlessly and with such expression. I wept and just let the tears fall on my cheeks and cloud my glasses so that I could not see anymore. They were full of love and courage. They inspired us all. I felt ashamed and guilty for how we judge such women.
I left full of vision for Worldwide Orphans to populate every community around the world with Toy Libraries... so that there would be no more addiction and abandonment and loss and poverty and whatever else that makes people feel so lost and downtrodden... that is how I think. I think that I can change everything and that I must change everything because there is too much social injustice and I can hardly breathe. Brava to Rise!
Dr. Jane Aronson
CEO & President, Worldwide Orphans