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Profiles in compassion

"Profiles in compassion" Continued...

Issue: "UN: Kofi's crisis," Dec. 18, 2004

Casa accepts children from birth to six years of age. The earlier the intervention, the more likely damage can be reversed. Example: When one tiny, 4-day-old newborn refused to eat, the doctor explained that the baby's mother had been raped, and that she had tried to abort him and then done drugs during her pregnancy. "This is a failure-to-thrive baby," he told Ms. Foster. "This baby wants to commit suicide. You are going to have to convince him that he is wanted, that he is loved." Round-the-clock attention ignited the child's desire to live. Later adopted, he will soon graduate from college.

Grand Rapids: Baxter Community Center

For two decades Baxter has provided affordable medical and dental help to poor people (most with annual incomes below $5,000) who would otherwise frequent hospital emergency rooms. As program director Melanie J. Beelen explains, "Their care would normally be fragmented, and they might go to one emergency room one day, another one the next day, or to perhaps another clinic setting that isn't able to provide primary care."

At Baxter, she notes, medical volunteers charging minimal amounts get to know their patients: "Patients learn how to build a relationship with their primary care provider and how to take their children in for appropriate healthcare. [They learn] what appropriate healthcare is, which is that both babies and adults need to receive checkups on a regular basis."

Ms. Beelen says that over 850 patients were treated in 2003, with 125 of them receiving counseling and spiritual help: "We see people who have been wounded in the past by a church or have no church attachment, so they are not only coming to us in need of medical and psychological care." She tells of a driver who hit a child with his car, and instead of helping, yelled a racial epithet at him; physical wounds healed, but spiritual success only became evident when the boy was able to forgive the driver who hit him.

Baxter's Christian response to physical and emotional needs also shows when medical needs go beyond what the clinic can offer; for example, a volunteer Baxter doctor helped a child diagnosed with cancer to receive the best care available in Grand Rapids. Since Baxter's medical and offic professionals are from a variety of races, Ms. Beelen says, "Coming together as a group can created by our very presence a racial reconciliation that is apparent to both God and the Grand Rapids community."

Raleigh: Jobs Partnership

When inner-city pastor Donald McCoy called Chris Magnum's Raleigh, N.C., company about getting a parking lot paved, his call was diected to the boss's line. As Mr. McCoy listed to Mr. Mangum lament that 10 of his trucks were parked because they need drivers, Mr. McCoy mentioned that members of his congregation were "parked" because they needed jobs.

This providential encounter gave birth to Jobs Partnership, a church-based mentoring program that takes unemployed people through a 12-week program and prepares them to be successful in the work force.

The first track of the training, "Keys to Personal and Professional Success," uses biblical precepts to guide participants through an examination of their attitudes toward God, authority, and work, while addressing issues such as conflict resolution, integrity, and stewardship.

"Steps to Personal and Professional Success," the second track, has personnel experts assisting job applicants in completing applications, submitting resumés, and prepping for interviews. Partners in the business community pool their contacts to provide leads on jobs.

Once hired, each new employee receives a workplace "buddy" who answers questions and provides encouragement. Mentors from area churches also agree to help the new employees by providing backup transportation, childcare, housing assistance, or budget coaching when necessary.

The approach seems to be working: After one year of placement, 84 percent of graduates are still employed. The success of Jobs Partnership has led to its replication in 32 other locations.

Rev. Skip Long, director of Jobs Partnership in Raleigh, said the relationships formed through the program have produced some unexpected benefits, such as racial reconciliation between mentors and job seekers. Another unanticipated outcome: 87 graduates have moved into their first homes. "We are connecting disconnected people," Mr. Long says.

New York City: Resources

This Brooklyn organization started with a wrong turn on a sweltering day when Monsignor Ronald Marino was looking for used furniture. He stumbled upon a room filled with Chinese women and children hunched over sewing machines, behind windows painted to hide them from passersby. As he learned that sweatshops were not a thing of the past, Mr. Marino "started to get obsessed with the work issue for immigrants."

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