During the height of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about the idea of the Beloved Community.
This type of society wasn’t based on unattainable ideals but could be achieved by the love of neighbors and promoting American principles of equality and justice. It was a place where everyone was valued no matter what they looked like, how much money they made or where they came from.
In the Beloved Community, everyone had worth.
Through my work with LUCHA, I’ve seen a small sample of this type of community. For the last few months, I’ve been involved with Project Adelante, an empowerment program that helps families move forward.
The program began in 2012 when a local chemist had an idea to take his hobby of soap-making and use it to teach economic empowerment to immigrant families. It started off slowly with a few families learning how to make soap from scratch.
Others got involved and started teaching crochet classes. Soon the program grew to include CPR with Red Cross certification, painting and English pronunciation.
The classes teach more than language or new skills. They instill self-confidence. For many immigrants, coming to a new country poses fresh challenges. They miss their homes and families. They have fear of people making fun of them when they try to speak English. They have to navigate new systems and bureaucracies including school, health care and social services. Many lose a sense of communal togetherness they had in Latin American culture and feel lonely, isolated and depressed.
What sticks out to me about Project Adelante is everyone moves forward together. People take turns being volunteers, translators, teachers and students. No one is seen as a “charity case” because everyone has their problems and their contributions. We work to solve problems like loneliness, culture shock and economic need and transform them into solidarity, self-confidence and neighborly love.
It’s not charity. It’s empowerment. My self-esteem has grown since helping with the program. I’ve learned skills I never thought I could do before. I’ve found a second family with people who come from over six diverse countries.
Students become teachers, translators become learners, children join in on the party. Everyone is welcome.
At Project Adelante, a small taste of Dr. King’s beloved community has come true.
“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” -MLK
Help LUCHA by donating to the Community Give on May 5! All proceeds will benefit Project Adelante.