Education – Mentorship – Food Sufficiency
These three focuses are founded upon these beliefs:
It takes relationship to mend a broken heart, and broken lives.
Charity does little to help a person, and sadly it often tears away at the last fiber of self respect that a person has.
If we love people exactly as they are, without expectation or condition as Christ did, we can save lives one person at a time.
Relationship is the key to reaching someone who has been hurt by the harsh effects of poverty. An example is this: If a person walked up to you, or knocked on your door and handed you a coat, while saying: “I see you need a coat”, you would probably be offended, even if you really needed a coat.
If however that person got to know you, and you got to know them. If they knew your children’s names and you knew their life story, if there was a real relationship, then things change; If then they came up to you and while handing you a coat said: “I saw this coat, and I knew it was perfect for you” Then it isn’t just your body that is warmed, it’s your heart.
From our experience charity is a bandaid on a systemic problem. Until you identify the cause, you can’t solve the problem. Charity does little to help a person rise up out of poverty and oppression. Our Executive Director Craig Oviatt is often heard saying that he hates charity. That may seem strange given that Salem Dream Center is a non-profit, and perhaps it is strange, but here is his vision. “We need to find effective ways to help people realize that they can dream, before we try to help them work toward a goal. In poverty the ability to dream becomes a fantasy, something that is not real. If we break the fangs of starvation mentality we give people a chance to feel safe, to take a breath and to look beyond “How do I survive today” We can then help them dream of a real future. So we will provide basic tangible needs, but through relationship. We will provide food, a bed, furniture and clothing, but only where we have established a relationship, and with determination to be a consistent part of their lives as we help equip them to succeed in life. It’s with that belief that Nuestra Casa is built. Nothing is free, yet everything is free! If you take a class, what will you then teach others? If you learn English, teach us your language. We don’t accept money, but you need to pay with who you are and be a part of Our House giving back. With that model, people will gain self-respect as they learn” Charity may meet an immediate need, but it does little if anything to inspire someone to become self-sufficent. We want more for the children and families who are part of our programs.
The key to a child’s success is their education. This becomes an even more crucial with children living in poverty where there is too often no motivation to achieve a higher education, because there is no hope, vision or drive. Living in a home and a community where most adults lack an education beyond high school, there is no positive example to be set for the children. All the children see is hard working parents who give all they have and yet they still struggle to survive.
Sadly there is a even harsher reality to being raised in poverty, and its that the parents are not equipped to help their children with their home work. It isn’t that they don’t want to, it’s that they never learned themselves. As we realized that parents couldn’t help their children we decided that we needed to stand in the gap for those unable to help their children succeed.
Six years ago we started a Home Work Club. It began before our normal Saturday activities at Walker Middle School. The first children to attend the Home Work Club were primarily middle school students. They brought in their home work, their school books and volunteers helped them learn.
That first Club had 13 students. Today 9 of those children are attending four year Universities and each are excelling. Each of them are the first in their family to attend collage. Each of them will succeed and realized their dreams.
Today we are working to develop a Learning Center called Nuestra Casa (Our House. It will be a safe place children and adults can come to get help to excel in school and life. To learn more go to Nuestra Casa
Most of the children we work with come from hard working families with parents who work long hours and multiple jobs as they strive to survive. This leaves their children in need of positive role models that will listen to them and help them navigate through the harsh streets of poverty. So how do you create that bond, that relationship? It happens at the Edge during our Saturday program where we play with kids, but there is far more to it than play. We are building friendships and trust. Its there that we start including children in field trips, to movies, to lunch or dinner, to a play, or to watch a ball game, but what we most love to do is to take children to visit the high school they will attend, or a University. When we do that High School and College become real, and they can begin dreaming of being a part of that life.
The majority of the children who are part of Dream Center live in Severe Food Insufficiency. That means they don’t know if they will eat on any given day. A sad fact is that most of the children who are part of our programs, will eat only one meal a day when they are out of school. For that reason we strive to break the fangs of hunger by providing a hot breakfast and lunch on Saturdays, and to provide enough healthy food during holiday breaks that the children have healthy food to eat until they return to school.
During the summer months we work hard to provide supplemental food to the families who we are in relationship with. We are blessed to received fresh produce from Spirit Hill Garden throughout the growing season, food that is distributed during our program, and delivered directly to homes and apartments, With the creation of Nuestra Casa we will be able to expand our desire to provide food sufficiency by creating a community garden with 32 4’x 8′ raised garden beds where residents can grow their own produce. We hope to expand our community garden to include two more plots, one a 1/4 acre lot and the other a 1 acre lot.
Beginning with Salem Dream Center on it’s first day on Oct 3 2004, Craig has brought his knowledge of business development and experience in youth development to expand and refine the focus of Salem Dream Center to successfully help vulnerable children break free of generational poverty and succeed through education. Craig’s passion is found in mentoring and inspiring children. On Saturdays you will often find him playing with children in the open gym.
Renee has been an active force at SDC mentoring young women and single mothers, helping them navigate through the challenges they face life living in poverty. Renee effectively oversees volunteers, special events and fundraising, and organizing an amazing team of volunteers. Renee brings her experience in the medical field to help insure a focus on healthy living and nutrition.
Program Director Nuestra Casa
Karo brings a vast knowledge of business, mentorship and education to the learning center. Karo oversees education and vocational training, including culinary and catering, for which she personally teaches. Karo has an extensive and highly successful history in Salem helping teens and young adults break free of the barriers that limit them, and to achieve success in life. Karo’s passion to help people experience life to it’s fullest, paired with her ability to speak directly with love and authority make her the perfect person to lead Nuestra Casa.
What we believe
- We believe the only time you should look down on someone, is when you are helping them up
- We believe its our assignment to love people exactly as they are, and there is nothing they can do about it
- We believe if we love people exactly as they are without condition or expectation they will believe in themselves
- We believe it’s though relationship that broken hearts and lives are mended
- We believe that outreach should be a lifestyle, not an event
- We believe outreach should be a desire, not an obligation
- We believe anyone can succeed in life, if they learn to believe in themselves
- We believe one of the most important parts of our mission is being the one constant in their lives, always being there
- We believe no child should ever go to bed hungry
- We believe the best way to have people hurt by poverty, hunger and religion believe God is good, is to show them, not tell them
- We believe our mission is not to complete God’s unfinished business, but it is our mission to get it going
- We believe if we plant the seeds of faith, God will do the rest (We do it because it’s Him!)
- We believe Matthew 28:16-20 (It’s the Great Commission, not Suggestion!)
- We believe God has given all of us passions and gifts that we need to complete our mission
- We believe God has a place for all of us to serve in our community
- We believe now is the time, this is the place, we are the ones who can make an impact
- We believe we are going to love being part of ministries that make an impact
- We believe our faith will grow, as will our relationship with Christ serving on the Edge
- We believe miracles still happen when we step out in faith and serve on the Edge
- We are a faith based non-proselytizing Interdenominational 501(c)(3) organization that believe our actions demonstrate our hearts desire to help people.