The forum started with opening remarks from State Sen. John Unger (D-Berkeley) and Del. Tiffany Lawrence (D-Jefferson). Participants then watched part of the PBS film Poor Kids and a short preview of a film about child poverty in the state being produced by West Virginia PBS.
They then met in smaller groups to talk about how poverty affects children academically and socially, stereotypes associated with being poor, what resources are available in the community and what can be done to prevent families from becoming poor.
United Way of the Eastern Panhandle Executive Director Pete Mulford shared his observations about the film clips.
“There was the one young kid that still had a dream,” Mulford said. “The nice thing was that the fact that you can still dream or hope or desire to have something better wasn’t lost yet in the kids.”
School teachers in another group talked about how hunger affects their students’ attitude and academic performance. Each group created a list of how they see poverty impacting children and what can be done about it.
Suggestions included having more people to work directly with poor families to help them find jobs and housing, breaking down barriers that prevent people from getting jobs and making more mental health services available.
The goal of the event was to encourage participants to take action by volunteering, donating money to organizations that help the poor and advocating for policies that help families dealing with poverty.