“You don’t need to cross an ocean or a border to be a missionary; you only need to cross your street.”
Poverty is a scary thing, and it’s a dangerous thing, a destructive force that breeds violence, ignorance and crime, but the worst thing that poverty creates is a sense of hopelessness, and sadly poverty is often a generational fact of life.
We are not fans of charity, and providing charity is not who we are. We feel that charity is a band-aid on a systemic problem, and in our 14 years being embedded in a community with a high poverty rate we have learned that the only way to mend a broken heart and broken lives is through relationship.
So, what does that mean? Well the best way we can explain it is this; If we were to walk up to you on a street corner and give you a coat because we felt you were cold, we may have warmed your body, but we also may have insulted you, and very possibly just torn away at one more fiber of your self-respect. That is Charity.
If, however we get to know you, and really know you. If we know about your dreams, your hopes and your fears, and you know ours. If we know about your family, your likes and dislikes and you know ours, and then we walk up to you and tell you; “I saw this coat and I immediately thought of you, and I knew I had to get it for you!” Then we have not only warmed your body, but we have also warmed your heart. That’s who we are, and that’s what we do. That’s Dream Center.
14 Years ago, we moved into a community filled with hunger, sorrow, violence, crime a community void of hope. We have walked a tricky line between enabling, and supporting as we have worked to break the fangs of poverty mentality. We have been a consistent presence in the community and we have developed relationships, and trust, and through those relationships lives are being changed. The community is being transformed, and the hideous grasp of generational poverty is being broken.
Crime has decreased. Educational outcomes have improved, starvation mentality is being tamed, and hope is a resident in the hearts of the children and the parents.
There is still a lot of work to be done, and we have aggressive plans to expand our education and mentorship through the creation of a free community learning center called Nuestra Casa, or Our House.
In short, Salem Dream Center is about relationships, and we are about being the difference.
A Walk on the Edge
“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth” ~Roberto Clemente~ October 2nd of 2004 a group of people stepped out in faith and took a walk on the Edge, moving into a community plagued by poverty, hunger, gangs, violence and darkness. We walked into the Edgewater District with a commitment to love people exactly as they were, without expectation or condition. To build relationships that transitioned into life long friendships. Our desire was to help people realize their value, to break the fangs of starvation mentality, and to help people transition out of poverty and into lives of sufficiency. We have stayed true to our commitment, and become a positive part of the Edgewater District. We stepped to the edge, and we pushed back darkness.
Since our first day in the fall of 2004, the crime rate at the edge has dropped consistently by 6.7%. Today the juvenal crime rate in Edgewater is 29% lower than communities with similar demographic’s. Vandalism has dropped by 79%. The middle school in the heart of the Edge went from having one of the lowest academic achievement standards, to one of the highest in the city. In 2004 only 63% of the children from the Edge graduated. Today 98% of the kids from the Edge graduate, and 100% of the teens who are active in our programs graduate. 41 SDC teens have gone onto attend college, more than half with academic scholarships. In 2016 Dream Center teens volunteered more than 7,200 hours in the community. Our teens know that it is giving back, that a person rises out of poverty. Thats the Dream Center model.
When faithful and dedicated people show up, and keep showing up, amazing things happen. Yes we stepped into the Edge, and we pushed back at the darkness of poverty and oppression, letting light, hope and love pour in, thats how dreams are made.