We’ve been here for three weeks already, and through all of the curriculum writing and the enrichment activities and the hearing from other non profits, one message has come through again and again. Orange County has indescribable poverty right next to its incredible wealth. The OC, with its pristine beaches and swaying palm trees, has a higher per capita rate of homelessness than LA county, has issues of domestic violence, and has a great need for a redistribution of food, particularly for school age children. This information has been presented to us multiple times to show all of us that the work we are doing is not only important, but necessary.
I have seen this duality of Orange County during these first three weeks. Most of our work days have been filled helping the hardworking, down-to-earth staff of Girls Inc., and I admire all of those I have met for their dedication and their excitement for their work. On the weekends, however, we have had the opportunity to meet other several residents of Orange County. These people have been very generous in funding some very needed last minute supplies, and I am very grateful for that, but it is impossible not to notice the sharp contradiction in lifestyle between these men and women and those we are here to work for.
In a stereotype, these people have an excess of money, are proud of their traditional families, and have turned to the nonprofit world later in life after they are incredibly comfortable. It is hard not to get the idea that they are working for these organizations because they think it is a fun pastime, instead of truly comprehending the needs of the underserved in Orange County. That is what really strikes me; it is not the simple having of wealth that I find disconcerting, but the obvious lack of familiarity and understanding of what to many of their neighbors is real life.
I am glad that both sides of Orange County have been part of my experience here so far. I have seen firsthand why some consider this area to be unneeding of aid, a little haven of wealth. The juxtaposition of living conditions and the inequality in such close quarters is so maddening, even as an outsider, and I hope it has given me a more accurate picture of the environment that the Girls Inc. girls have grown up in.