CHOSEN BY SOCIETY
PHILOSOPHY OF HELPING PAPER
BY RICKARD JEAN-NOEL
A great man once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county”. Those words were once said by John F. Kennedy during his Inaugural Address which he delivered on January 20, 1961. Those inspirational words went on to inspire hundreds, if not thousands of people all over the world. Those words were not only a wakeup call, but they were a call to action which basically said to stop waiting for a handout and to go out and create something that will not only benefit you but that will benefit everyone. Those words also inspired myself and helped in driving me to become the individual that I am today. When you are able to help yourself and improve your personal life, you are then able to help others and make a social impact in the world. The philosophy of helping is one which we all should have, but yet something that many of us lack. During this essay I will discuss the many contributing factors that lead to me becoming a social worker, and the life experiences that has confirmed this profession for me(https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/education/teachers/curricular-resources/elementary-school-curricular-resources/ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you).
My family and I came to America in the early 1990s, after immigrating from Haiti. During that time, Haiti was in social and economical distress. To escape the poverty, violence, and germs my parents believed that it would be in our best interest to move to the United States. Upon arriving to America, my mother’s cousin took us in and provided our family of 3 with a room in his basement. At the time it wasn’t much, but it provided us with somewhere to live and helped us to build a foundation. For the first few years of living in America my father was the sole provider of the family. He would work as a cab driver, and my mother was a stay at home mom. To help subsidize the lack of income in the home, we used public assistance such as food stamps and WIC checks so that we were able to purchase food. I did not see my first real American dollar until the age of 10. Needless to say, I grew up in poverty and this resulted in us moving several times.
Growing up in poverty you see many others living in poverty as well. Your first thought is “how can I help this person?”. Your second thought becomes “how can I help myself first?”. My family was often ridiculed for being poor. My father would often work 7 days a week and so my mother often took us to church alone. At church many people would stop and stare at the lady with the four children and no husband. Regardless of what others said or thought of us, my mother always carried herself with pride and respect, and she always insured us that better times were to come. My mother became the driving force in formulating my personal helping philosophy. For awhile my mother did not work, but when she did began to work, she worked two jobs. Her first job was as a Home Health-Aid, and her second job was a school bus driver assistant. My mother worked two jobs until all four of her children graduated college. Once the four of us graduated, she left her job as a Home Health-Aid and continued working only as a school bus drivers assistant.
Even if my mother had a little or if she had a lot, she would always give. My mother was always a loving person and always allowed people into her home. Whenever someone would come over, she would always offer them food and tell them jokes or complain to them about my dad. My mother was always a very spiritual woman, and always prayed for us and thought us who God is. My mother is the reason why I have stayed in church all of these years. With the assistance of the church, we have been able to help hundreds of people and have improved the lives of countless people. My mother thought me that you do not have to have a lot to help a lot of people. She also thought me that if you give full heartedly, God will multiply whatever it is you are giving and will perform miracles through you. This to me was the actual philosophy of what helping is.
During my early years of life, I had no interest in social work, nor was I aware to what social workers did. I did not pick social work, but social work did pick me. During my college years, I had no intentions of studying social worker. I wanted to be a lawyer and did pre-law for undergrad. After graduating from college, I got a job working for a social security disability firm, helping individuals that were unable to work to obtain their social security disability benefits. During this time, I had a huge caseload of over 200 clients, but I was able to assist many people that were currently going through a difficult time. After some time of working for that firm, they filed chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was then that I was referred by a friend to apply for a job with a nonprofit organization located in The Bronx. I was successful in obtaining employment and from there started my career in social worker.
During my time with the nonprofit organization in The Bronx, I was stationed in The South Bronx. The South Bronx is well known for poverty, crime, and drugs. Majority of its residence live under the 200% poverty level and majority of them lack even a high school education. Majority of the clients were single mothers on welfare that were barely able to get by and were living off of $400- $600 a month. Working with this population opened my eyes to the lives of those that are living in The United States off of an income of those in a 3rd World Country. Observing this at a young age provided me with two goals which were: 1. To try my best to help these individuals and 2. To try my best to never end up in the same situation as them. During my time at this particular organization, I worked in the HomeBase Homeless Prevention Unite and I was successful in assisting over 80 families that were in housing court facing eviction. Because of the work done, we were able to resolve their housing crisis and help prevent those families from becoming homeless.
After two years at that company, I moved to another nonprofit organization in Brooklyn and began working in a Men’s Homeless Shelter for the mentally and ill chemically addicted (MICA). Working at this MICA shelter has opened my eyes immensely to how the homeless population lives and how being addicted or mental ill can affect your entire life. I have learned many things during my time there that I was never aware of. My many experiences there has helped me to grow become more compassionate and to be more conscience about life. If it were not for my experiences working for nonprofits and doing social work, I would not be aware of the things that are actually going on in the city and I would not be as willing to help as I am today. My professional experiences have provided me with first-hand knowledge and awareness that has helped to shape the philosophy that I have today which is “how can we help to make this world better because there is a lot of work to be done”.
Another person that has been a driving force in formulating my personal helping philosophy is Pastor Sander Cameau. Pastor Cameau is someone that I’ve known since High School, yet we were not formally acquainted until later on in life. He thought me the importance of community service and the importance of filling the void in the low-income neighborhoods of the world. Because of the role that my mother played in my life and the model of which she provided me with, along with my professional experiences from my employment, and my work with Pastor Cameau, it lead to the creation of our personal ministry and nonprofit organization called “The Real Word Ministries Inc.,” which is a spiritually based organization whose mission is to help those in need. Through our company, we have been able to help hundreds of people and through our television show, we have been able to reach millions of people to provide education and awareness. Pastor Cameau and I were both preachers in the church. From reading the Bible, we are thought to help those in need that are unable to help themselves.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the 15th Chapter Verse 11 of the King James Version of the Holy Bible, it states that: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land”. Equipped with that same philosophy, Pastor Cameau and myself created a live podcast show where we provided people with knowledge, wisdom, news, and a platform to speak freely. The success of the show led us to create fundraising drives so that we could raise money to purchase items to donate to those less fortunate. Eventually we were able to obtain investors that helped us to apply for the 501c3 tax exempt which we were awarded, making us a legal nonprofit organization. With the help of our supporters, we have been able to help hundreds of people. Together we have feed countless people, provided many with clothes and coats, provided children in low income neighborhoods with school supplies. We have also provided toys during the holiday seasons and turkeys during thanksgiving. We have also provided diapers to young mothers. Through our nonprofit, we have been able to achieve our goal of helping others and impacting lives in a positive way (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV, Holy Bible).
Because God works in mysterious ways, shortly after we applied to for a tax exempt for the IRS, I received an email from Fordham University about their master’s in social work program. Many would say that this was divine intervention, given the fact that I’d founded my own nonprofit and had been granted acceptance into a great school for their master’s in social work program. I believe that my personal values have helped mold me to be kindhearted and giving which has helped me to be a great social worker. I did not chose the social work field, but through my actions and willingness to help, I have legitimized myself as a social worker and it has helped me to make a great social impact in the lives of those that need the assistance and has provided me with a rewarding career.