Chastity Lord: Jeremiah Program Is No Stranger to Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to harness the creativity and innovation that drive our community.
This is a shape-shifting moment within our country. As a leader, a mother, and a citizen, this past month has been simultaneously frightening, frustrating, and inspiring. Each day, we move through those emotions and acknowledge that the world has become unrecognizable—but we can’t remain still for too long. We must begin to shape the contours of our new world and ask, “What opportunities does this present? What can we do to reduce the poverty tax on moms and families?”
In the U.S., people of all socioeconomic levels have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the pandemic isn’t a great equalizer—far from it. Folks who were experiencing poverty before the pandemic are now experiencing it at a deeper level. Women experiencing poverty will have more difficulty gaining or regaining stability once the daily restrictions are lifted.
For the mothers of Jeremiah Program, the pandemic has upended almost every aspect of life. The part-time jobs that used to fill the gaps in their budgets no longer exist. The public transportation routes they accessed have been drastically reduced or cut. In every city where we partner with communities, public schools have gone virtual. Mothers are trying to keep up their own studies while simultaneously caring for their children. Our childcare centers used to provide breakfast and lunch; many families are now responsible for every meal, requiring additional groceries at a time when shopping is a logistical and emotional nightmare.
“We’re leaning into our mission, and we’re also pivoting to the future.”Chastity Lord, JP President and CEO
Many of our moms feel like they were finally gaining momentum, only to have everything they were working for come to a halt. But they’re facing this moment with the grit and resiliency that their journeys have demanded. They’ve been through hard times before.
Although these challenges are unprecedented, our response as an organization is firmly anchored in our core values. Our leadership is committed to making sure all of our families are safe. No one will lose housing. No one will go hungry. All of our staff will be leveraged and utilized. We will continue to remind our mothers of their power, their resilience, and that they are still experts within their lives.
On a day-to-day basis, this means our staff assessing urgent needs and determining how we can respond to them in scalable ways. It means putting together structures and systems that allow us to be responsive. It means ensuring that our moms get groceries, get diapers, get cleaning supplies and baby wipes. It means keeping the lines of communication open so our families know that we’re here to advocate for them.
We’re leaning into our mission, and we’re also pivoting to the future. Right now, we have committees working on new digital programming that will deliver Empowerment, family coaching, and supplemental early childhood development programming through hybrid learning models. Everything we’re putting in place is responding to the moment and investing in the future of Jeremiah. When we move out of the COVID crisis, these new hybrid learning models and virtual resources will remain, better serving Jeremiah Program moms and expanding our services to new families.
“Our moms will thrive. Our kids will thrive. Our communities will thrive. And, yes, JP will thrive.”Chastity Lord
Due to the uncertainty of this moment, it benefits our moms tremendously to be able to attend counseling sessions virtually and engage with JP programming after their kids go to sleep. The pandemic has allowed us the opportunity to explore these modalities and build on what we’ve been doing. The new virtual programming will allow us to respond to moms in a more authentic, holistic way while lowering the cost per family engagement.
Jeremiah Program is no stranger to crises or challenges. We understand the urgency of now, but we also understand the need to be disciplined and strategic—because the effects of this pandemic will be far-reaching. More pockets of poverty are being created in our country than has been seen in our lifetimes. We’re taking everything we’ve learned about disrupting generational poverty over the last two decades and making sure the structures we put in place equip us to support more moms and more kids quickly.
We aren’t just treading water in this moment: We are identifying opportunities and making investments that will allow the organization, and our moms, to emerge more powerful than ever. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.”
Our moms will thrive. Our kids will thrive. Our communities will thrive. And, yes, JP will thrive.
Chastity Lord is Jeremiah Program’s president and CEO.