After a long day of travel on some less than smooth flights, I’m safely back in Ann Arbor. Back to my own bed, my own couch, and to be honest – my own safety net. Spending the last seven days in Mississippi has certainly changed me for the better, and certainly pushed me outside of my safety net.
My first blog post was regarding my apprehension about having to slow down and not “go, go, go” in the South – which is my normal state. I think this apprehension quickly subsided as I realized that I had more to learn than I had to teach. I learned more about the life outside of my “bubble” this week than I could have ever given the communities in our presentations. I found myself being quiet and observing what all was going on around me. I drank it all in – both the scene and the sweet tea!
There is such great need for public health interventions and FUNDING in the Mississippi Delta. It was a sobering thing to realize – everything I had studied would be successful there with the right leadership, but it was truly impossible because there is no funding. For example, the lack of employment opportunities in Clarksdale and Cleveland make it undesirable to move there as a young family. However, the lack of people moving there makes it undesirable for businesses to start up and thrive. A cyclical problem – where does one begin to help the situation? Another ramification of this lack of people moving into the county is a lack of taxes being paid into the county, meaning that the state funding is low for schools and other resources. These poorer school districts have lower academic achievements, making it even less desirable for young families to move there when neighboring counties have better schools. The cycle seems to never end and I could sense the frustration about lack of action and lack of options.
By stopping and listening rather than buzzing around and on the go, I learned more about this community and its unique set of challenges. I don’t have the answers and the answer isn’t exactly easy to find, but by stepping back I felt that I could hear the community concerns much better and I could work towards further understanding their situation.
Thank you Mississippi for hosting us, and I look forward to visiting again soon.