Help Me help myself and then others
Organized by: Molli Vandehey
Please take the time to read my story. I welcome feedback and questions. Please note, I am open to loans (though payback may be slow) and WORK (web design, odd jobs, childcare, laundry, virtual assistant/ proofreading work, etc). PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING YOU CANNOT SPARE, but know we are eternally grateful for any small amount. If you feel inspired, moved, or just bored or concerned for us, please help and know that I will always pay it forward.
I was raised on the east coast by hoarder parents, and though we were considered "middle class", something always felt wrong to me about our lifestyle. We rarely cooked at home, we generated tons of waste, and had all kinds of THINGS in the house... things we hardly ever used, but my parents felt we should have, "just in case". As i got older, my travels brought me to the west coast and a whole new type of lifestyle.
I am currently in Portland, Oregon, raising a family of my own, and I have tried to show my children an alternative to consumption and "keeping up with joneses". We are a homeschooling family, practicing "Attachment parenting", "connected parenting", and "child-led learning". This means we put our relationship with our children above punishment and shaming, and look for real life opportunities to learn, instead of doing worksheets and rote memorization. As such, we have always worked for what we need without overworking ourselves, so we have the time and energy left for our children. Although we are struggling financially, we have managed to not only keep our necessities, but to arrange for little extras in life as well. Through our small but growing community, we gift what we are not using, and get what we need. We barter for things like skilled labor and camps for our kids. I run a buying club that helps people to buy food directly from farmers, enabling families and individuals to save money, keep what they spend local, and put nourishing foods into their bodies. We have always tried our best to be frugal, and not to waste, but it has not allowed us a whole lot of savings. We always figured that since we can't get these years back with our kids, there'd be time to save up when they got a little older.
And then, last year, one by one, things began to fall apart. We suffered several unavoidable, unforeseeable expenses and what little savings we had disappeared, and soon became debt. We had trouble facing bills and were repeatedly faced with the possibility that our utilities would be shut off, or we would lose our home. Our other debts increased, our diminished (even with food stamps, which were not enough to feed our family of 6). We sold all the personal belongings we could spare and continued to take any work that came our way. Still, we were (and still are) in a rut that continued to grow deeper.
This time has been difficult, and terrifying, but also inspiring and uplifting.
As we struggled not only to survive financially, but to be honest and authentic, we have learned many things. We asked for help, both from the universe and our neighbors, and were able to at least stay afloat. We learned a lot about who our real friends were, and which personal belongings were necessary (and there were not NEARLY as many as we thought!) We really learned to make the most of the resources available to us, and got much more involved in alternative economies, like Gifting and Swapping communities, childcare trade, worktrade programs, and local gleaning programs that redistribute fresh organic foods that would otherwise be thrown away.
These ideas and programs saved our lives, and also opened my eyes. It was shocking, not only how much gets wasted, but also how few people have even considered thinking outside the box to reduce waste. Even worse was how difficult it is for people to be legally allowed to give food or items to people who will use them, even when those things will otherwise just be thrown away. And many people seemed to look down on us for using those resources, or truly felt we were harming our kids by giving them food a supermarket had deemed "unsellable". As I see the problems and barriers, I also feel thankful that I can see solutions, and real change possible!
Through our actions and the kindness and commitment of others, we have managed not only to survive, but to thrive, and I truly believe that in these small acts lies the means to really make a difference. During a really rough month, a member of my church paid our electric bill for the month. I was hesitant to accept the help (she had already helped us, financially and emotionally, so much!), and she said something that stays with me:
"So here's how my husband sees it. If we still lived in a tribal setting, we would share our food and blankets. We would go out and cut some extra fire wood to get you through. That kinda thing. Your metaphorical firewood happens to come via (our power company) and instead of an ax, I can wield a discover card. Otherwise it's the same thing."
This made me laugh, but made so much sense. I hear people complaining all the time that technology is driving us apart as people, but I think we can really utilize our current resources to create a new kind of "virtual village". I realized I my community, both its location and its people, are the perfect starting point for a movement such as this. Activism, diversity, and acceptance is the norm here, and the words "Keep Portland Weird" have never been more inspiring. Because I think we need "Weirdness" to be able to think outside the box.
I am in the process of combining and expanding several of the projects I am currently involved with, and turning my buying club (www.mudvillecommons.com) into a virtual village, where we can increase awareness about all these things, give them a central place to exist, and really use community and existing resources to help others. These are the things exisiting or in the works:
~foodbuying club to help keep money local and with REAL food
~scholarship for food
~trade services and goods for food
~encouraging trade/ donation/ gleaning from individuals, farms, and markets to be distributed instead of wasted
~outdoor gear lending library (backpacks, tents, cookstoves, etc)
~food preservation lending library
~child/ baby stuff lending library
~homeschool "curriculum" lending library
~open ended skill swap
~eventual goal of a tiny house or RV-based community where we share foods and resources and lend out to community
~money-free economy options through gifting and making
~workshops for public
But in order to do this, I really need to be able to dedicate this time to this project. I believe I can achieve self-reliance and sustainability, not just for my family, but for my community, and that we can, through demonstration, create waves of understanding.
This is how change happens.
Obviously, I am not the only person who can do this, and we are not the only family with serious scary debt, on the verge of eviction, homelessness, starvation, etc. But I feel simultaneously terrified and inspired.
The amount of money I have stated is what it will take to meet our current months needs and to pay off the immediate, unavoidable (like court/ jailtime/ bankrupcy-inducing) debt and to the startup costs for the community (website programs/ plugins, some physical items that will be needed for our "Swap" community, and utilities at a donated space to host us). I know it's not chicken feed, and it is an insurmountable obstacle for me alone, but it seems like a drop in the bucket of the grand scheme of the universe.
LOANS, web design work, childcare work, laundry work, and administrative assistant work, all gratefully accepted as well!!!!
I am a real person!
Here is my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/molli.vandehey?fref=ts
Here is my blog, which REALLY needs my attention! http://sirenwithsoul.com/
Here is my current, fairly empty website (it's just a foodbuying club right now) www.mudvillecommons.com
Here is my food club's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mudvillecommons/
Here is a link to the Portland/ Vancouver Gift Economy and Freestore (these are NOT my projects, but I am involved in them and they inspire me!)
Here is info on the Gleaning program (also not my project, but also inspiration!)
PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING YOU CANNOT SPARE, but know we are eternally grateful for any small amount. If you feel inspired, moved, or just bored or concerned for us, please help and know that I will always pay it forward.