By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
& Sherika Brooks, Executive Assistant
Yesterday, Sherika and I visited the facilities of Bright Beginnings, a long-time Catalogue nonprofit, for a tour and site visit. Bright Beginnings is a “nationally recognized developmental childcare center for homeless infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that prepares vulnerable children for kindergarten while also helping stabilize their families.” As much as we read about the services provided by nonprofits like Bright Beginnings, the impression made by experiencing their impact first-hand is exponentially greater.
After discussing the needs addressed and services provided by the organization, Director of Development and Communications Joan Woods took our small group on a tour through the campus. One of Bright Beginnings’ unique qualities is the way it reclaims the face of homelessness in the District. The children and families it serves experience homelessness — but after walking into one of their well-equipped classrooms and seeing a group of toddlers playing and laughing together, one would never guess it. Despite the smiles on their faces, children from families experiencing homelessness are much more likely to suffer from hunger, behavioral problems, depression, and other emotional problems than their peers. They also typically enter kindergarten at a lower ‘academic’ level than their classmates. Bright Beginnings works to provide an early intervention to these challenges and allow low-income children to begin school equipped with the same tools for success as other children.
According to Woods, Bright Beginnings serves approximately 25% of the population of homeless children/families in DC, which is a fairly large segment. And as Bright Beginnings is also one of the only providers of educational and social services to children experiencing homelessness and their families, 75% of children in a similar situation are without the same services and opportunities to grow and develop in a healthy and supportive way.
I couldn’t help walking through the classrooms at Bright Beginnings and reflecting on the stark contrast between the bright and welcoming classrooms where the children spend their days, and the chaotic and tenuous places each child goes ‘home’ to every night. It brings to mind a quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” The Catalogue for Philanthropy is proud to promote a culture of not only philanthropy, but genuine connection between individuals and causes in the greater Washington region. We work with the hope that these connections and a shared sense of humanity will foster the innovation needed to truly address the root causes of injustices like homelessness. The children of Bright Beginnings surely deserve as much.