Week 9, Day 3: Ellen at Advance Memphis

38126 – I can’t say I have ever been to this area in Memphis until today.  I learned today that this zip code was ranked the third poorest area in the entire nation in 1999. The symptoms that often accompany impoverished neighborhoods are still present today: large unemployment, crime, low graduation rates and high infant mortality rates.

 Advance Memphis was established to economically revitalize the neighborhood. They offer programs to those who live in the 38126 zip code to help them recognize their gifts, become financially stable, and responsible stewards of their resources. They work under a Christian framework and therefore Biblical perspectives are woven into their classes.


What I particularly appreciate about Advance Memphis is that its model challenges the way we all do and think about business. Their Biblical perspective is that we are all given gifts to be used for work, but also to be shared and to serve others and God. It gave me pause to reflect on the capitalist society we live in that pushes businesses to make as much profit as possible at any expense. Sharing and serving are not really woven into that mindset. Is that really a healthy way to sustain our communities? Would Memphis be all-around a better place if more companies and businesses in the community recognized that we are home to one of the poorest zip codes in the nation and pitched in, perhaps through partnering with Advance Memphis, to offer training and employment opportunities? If business decisions were based on making its local community an overall better place, would the world have less neighborhoods plagued by unemployment and crime? I know business-savvy people might respond by saying that isn’t the function of a business, but that’s what I loved about Advance Memphis. It challenged me to think about things differently and imagine a world where everyone was more generous with their gifts, including businesses.


Today at Advance Memphis I got to be part of two MAPS sessions. This was really fun. My role was that of graphic facilitator – meaning I drew stick figures. When a participant is ready to do a MAPS session, they are about half way through with the “Jobs for Life” program where job skills such as interview prep, the importance of punctuality, work ethic, etc… are taught. The MAPS session provides a time where the participants’ gifts and dreams are first explored. Then, the participant creates an action plan in which she determines her next steps in order to achieve her dreams. It is all illustrated on a giant piece of chart paper in which yours truly drew representations of stories and gifts of the participants all over it. It was neat to see such a big sheet of paper representing the positive assets and dreams of an individual.  A road map for success is visually laid in front of them.

z MAPS 1

Both of the women I got to work with today had some pretty amazing accomplishments. One had won a public speaking contest after having been known as quiet. Once she delved into history and the civil rights movement she found something she was passionate about sharing. The other woman I drew for has been sacrificially giving of herself to both the elderly and young children, whether they are family members or a neighbor in need. After these talented women graduate from the Jobs for Life program they can enroll in the Faith and Finances program where they learn about responsible budgeting   – a useful skill for anyone living in any zip code!

Want to share your gifts? In each program participants are paired with a volunteer who serves as a source of moral encouragement. They are called Champions or Allies depending on the program. As a Champion or Ally you are able to encourage an individual as they seek to establish financial independence. Thanks to Advance Memphis’ intensive research and effective curriculum paired with their passion for positive change they are seeing 38126’s determined individuals establish financial stability each year! Advance Memphis is proof that when people are given the opportunity to receive support, encouragement and the tools needed to improve their own situation they will take it and run.

z MAPS 2


El resumen en español:

38126: El código postal del área conocida como la tercer zona más pobre de la nación en 1999. No conocía esta zona hasta hoy. Fui a Advance Memphis, una organización dedicada a revitalizar la comunidad económicamente. Es cristiana y así trabaja bajo principios bíblicos para enseñar clases de preparación para trabajos y manejar sus finanzas personales.

Yo tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en una sesión de  MAPs en la cual una participante del programa “Trabajos Por Vida” tiene la oportunidad de explorar sus dones y sus sueños. Fue impresionante ver los logros y aspiraciones de las dos mujeres con quien hice el ejercicio. Para mí fue una experiencia única porque yo tenía la tarea de dibujar representaciones de los sueños y habilidades. Las mujeres ya han logrado hacer cosas muy extraordinarias en sus vidas. Ahora ya saben que son muy capaces de lograr sus sueños!

Lo que me gusto más de Advance Memphis es la forma en cómo perciben a los negocios.  El punto de vista de ellos es que todos tenemos dones y habilidades que sí, son para trabajar, pero también para servir a los demás y a Dios. Me dio una pausa de pensar que si todos los negocios del mundo pensaran así, tuviéramos un mundo con menos comunidades sufriendo. Quitaríamos el enfoque en ganancias y lo pondríamos en construir comunidades más sanas y justas.

Quiere compartir sus dones? Puede servir como un mentor con unos de los participantes en los programas de Advance Memphis.  Advance Memphis es la prueba que si las personas reciben la oportunidad de recibir ánimo, apoyo, consejos positivos y las herramientas necesarias para mejorar su propia situación, ellos la tomarán y lo lograrán!


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