In the US we regularly celebrate those who have achieved great things, from business to the world of sports, but too often we overlook the contribution of people whose success lies in the improvements they bring to other people’s lives. It is tempting to believe that all of our achievements are permanent and durable and that we don’t need anyone’s help, but in reality, misfortune and tragedy can strike at any time. When adversity strikes, it is often the kindness of strangers that can be most significant in helping us to get through difficult times. And every day, all over the US, there are individuals and organizations helping the vulnerable and those who are struggling to overcome adversity.
Some are able to help different groups simultaneously by leveraging their skills and financial resources. Take the foundation set up by entrepreneur Charles Phillips and his wife Karen. The Phillips Charitable Foundation is a non-profit organization that offers financial support, assistance and opportunities for single parents, aspiring engineering students and disabled veterans; all causes that are close to the Phillips’ hearts, that have inspired them to help others.
The US has been involved in many military conflicts over the decades and the cost of service can often be high. Returning veterans can face a range of problems, from PTSD to homelessness, and often have trouble finding work. Their plight has led to the formation of dozens of foundations and charities devoted to assisting our returning veterans to overcome trauma and adversity and build happy lives after they have completed their service.
Founded by an Iraq veteran, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America works with the 2.4 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting them from their first day out of the forces through the rest of their lives, providing health care, education and employment assistance, and helping them to connect with other veterans for mutual support.
Another charity doing valuable work in this area is the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, which for more than a century has been offering educational support and financial assistance to members of the Navy and the Marine Corps, providing grants and interest-free loans to more than 100,000 sailors and marines from 250 locations worldwide.
Helping Children and Families
According to a 2011 report by the OECD, around one in four children in the US is being raised in a single parent household. Being a single parent brings with it a range of challenges and meeting all of the responsibilities associated with running a home, holding down a job and raising a family can place severe emotional and financial strain on individuals. Groups such as Single Parent Advocate offer help to single parents who are struggling, through resources, emotional support and practical advice.
Some family homes are blighted by the horror of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Hotline is staffed by professionals 24-hours a day and offers immediate support and advice for those affected by domestic violence, while there are numerous local charities across the US focused on providing practical help ranging from crisis intervention to emergency food and shelter.
It is children who often suffer most from family trauma or adversity and there are many dedicated organizations working to support vulnerable children. Adopt America’s Children is a group that for over 40 years has focused on providing loving and stable families for children who have been the victims of neglect or maltreatment, while organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America are providing safe places for children to learn and develop.
Challenges for Transmen and Transwomen
Although the US has slowly become a more welcoming place for members of the LGBTQ community, some individuals still face many challenges. In particular, transgender men and women face considerable adversity on a daily basis, from the risk of verbal and physical abuse to ongoing discrimination. Fortunately, there are some organizations dedicated to helping transgender people, such as Trans Lifeline, which provides a crisis support hotline, and Trans Student Educational Resources, which is a group that focuses on supporting transgender students in schools and colleges.
For those struggling with adversity, the world can sometimes seem to be a cruel and unforgiving place. But there are dedicated people and organizations out there who work hard every day to help those facing challenges, and their efforts are helping to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people all over the US.