Sister Eileen on Having a Voice

Sister Eileen is a Sister of Mercy. Sisters of Mercy have been mending the gaps in New Hampshire since 1850. One of the services they provide is food.

She clarifies the important distinction between telling people “I am your voice” verses “You have a voice- I want to hear it and I want you to tell other people.”

She shares how the New Hampshire minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on, especially in expensive locations like Nashua. These numbers are daunting for citizens.

The heat of recent days reminds her of those who have no shelter from the heat. She shares the names of Maureen- who at 67 can’t survive on her Social Security and part time job, Tom- who wants to work but sustained injuries during at work and is on Medicaid, Maria- who paid taxes but received no benefits because she’s and immigrant, Ray- who’s mental illness and troubled family has limited his resourced but plants flowers along the local rail trail, Sharon- a mother of four who has been on a waiting list for subsidized housing for 10 years, Anthony- a 49-year old who has recently passed away from addiction and poverty, Brenda- who works for a social service agency and has insurance but still cannot keep up with co-pays, as well as bright young people like Kelsey, Steven, and Sergio who are working to earn money for college.

She strives to share their stories with policy makers and communicate the policy records of lawmakers with community members.

She calls for us to find out about our candidates and what they vote for, and share the information and get out the vote. “Spend as much time working on an issue as you spend complaining about it, discussing it, and posting on Facebook about it,” she ends, “the stories are intimate but cry to be heard, the people are precious and need to be valued.”

Amy’s Want to Work

Amy lives in Rochester NH and is the mother of two children and a stepson. The high cost of childcare forces her family to choose between caring for her child and going to work.

When her first child was born 5 years ago, and she became a single mother shortly after, she struggled to keep a job and provide the quality care her child deserves. In 2014 she had a job that she enjoyed- though she didn’t get off until 7:30, had a 40min commute to the babysitter, and didn’t get home until after 8pm. She eventually had to leave that job to be better able to take care of her child. She took a $4/hour pay cut so she could be closer to home and have better hours to take care of her child.

In 2015 she remarried and became pregnant with her second child. She realized that her income would not cover childcare for two children. It made more sense for her to stay home with her children wile her husband works. She has a masters degree in social work and wants to work but cannot afford it due to the cost of childcare.

Her husband works 50-60 hours a week but they still can’t afford rent, car payments, or food. Any unexpected changes in her husband’s work schedule, such as illness or death in the family, makes long-term budgeting very difficult.

While it’s in the best interest of the state and her family to have her working, she is unable to afford it. She hopes that her story will help legislators see what local families are facing in the state.

Jazmine On Our Democracy Fight

While she’s heard that everyone has an equal chance of obtaining the American Dream, she calls out that this “dream” is unachievable for so many, especially those who look like her. She draws a distinction between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ some who experience systematic oppression and others who experience privilege, some who have democracy and others who only have a dream.

She shares how she is fortunate to have the opportunity of a lifetime of having her education paid for for ten years thanks to Bill Gates. She shares about how she grew up in a very poor and unstable environment, around constant drug addiction and distribution. She bounced among her mother, father, and grandparents, who were her only source of stability.

She shares how she had to grow up very fast- taking responsibility for her ten younger siblings, preparing dinner, cleaning buildings, distributing newspapers, all while going to school and playing three sports.

Jazmine shares how she’s seen the racial and socio-economic gaps in our society throughout her life. Since birth she’s seen the struggle of African-Americans concerning poverty, discrimination, and racial profiling. She notes recent police killings of men black men, nearly 2 per week this year.

She shares about how her step-father was mistreated by police for driving in his car at 3am, deciding that they felt threatened. Her aunt was also pulled out of her car and physically assaulted by the police. Jazmine herself cannot count the number of times she’s been pulled over by police for no reason. Situations like this show her that people of color are disproportionately targeted by police.

She asks us to imagine different situations in order to visualize the difficulties faced by many people in our country due to racism, incarceration, discrimination, and/or poverty. She shows that “democracy looks different when these are your circumstances.” She calls attention to how gaps of access and discrimination cause people to be disengaged in democracy.

She shares that  democracy means allowing everyone to participate and have their voices heard. She also notes that democracy means representation and representation means not just the white, the wealthy, the heterosexual, the Christian. She notes that mending the democracy gap will be difficult due to America’s history of systemic oppression of multiple groups.

Still, she says “I refuse to sit idly by and let others dictate democracy for us.” She calls for our elected representatives and ourselves to be held accountable for mending this gap. She offers ways to fight for democracy, from fighting for legal reform to get money out of politics, educating yourself about issues, working in a nonprofit, or trying to register more voters. She inspires us all to mend the democracy gap!


Cindy on Ladies First

Cindy started working for Ladies First about a year ago.

The CDC gives a grant to every state for breast cancer prevention. In recent years ovarian cancer and cardiovascular risk assessments have been added. When she was young Ladies First would pay for mammograms for women who didn’t have insurance. Now, with the ACA, women without insurance still get a mammogram and pap smear paid for by Ladies First. Women with and without insurance who are over 30 and would benefit from physical exercise get a membership to a gym, and Ladies First covers the deductible for insured women.

Cindy explains who is eligible- and that many more women can benefit from Ladies First than think they can.

In Bennington Cindy has expanded the fitness center options- women can now choose between 5 different centers.

Darius on Better Working Economy

Darius shares his story of how he started working at McDonalds when Boston had a minimum wage of $8 an hour. He worked there for three years and only received a raise of $0.25, and that due to his going on a strike. During the strike his store owner came down from a baseball game to ask why he went on strike.

The manager asked if he was going to go on strike again. He responded that until the working conditions and treatment improves he will keep going on strike because “we deserve more” and “we’re worth more.”

He calls attention to the fact that people who work fast food are working every day to provide for their families. One of his friends has four jobs and rarely sees his children. He notes that workers need to advocate for themselves and fight for fair working conditions and pay.

Darius notes that “this is a community that needs it [a better economy], this is a community that deserves it, this is a world that deserves it.” He advocates for a better working economy that serve the workers and that we can all be proud of.

He shows how through his work he has found an apartment and thought he could make a living through hard work. However, his job started cutting his hours from 40 hours a week eventually down to 10 or 15 hours a week. Due to these hour cuts he lost his apartment and way of living. He ends by sharing that the one thing they can’t take is his faith.

Ellen on Disability Social Justice

Rev. Ellen Frith, an interfaith ordained minister, helped to create Sojourner House (which allowed families to have their sons over the age of 12 live with them) and works with those experiencing unemployment and homelessness.

She comes from an “sufficient” economic situation, but today is in a different place due to her decision to stand up and speak up.

She identifies herself as a person with a disability, and points out that even at the Nuns on the Bus social justice rally doesn’t have a ramp up to the podium. She shares about how they re-dedicated the chapel at Harvard divinity school because it wasn’t accessible to people with disabilities. When they did the renovation, her friend with a disability looked out over the congregation and said, “Each and every one of you, if you live long enough, will become a person with a disability, so you’d better start thinking about it now.”

Her experience of the gaps began in 2007 when she began taking photos of violations for people with disabilities that the police didn’t enforce. Due to this she has been arrested, assaulted, served a year in Framingham, lost her housing, an lost all of the things that she worked to earn throughout her life. She began her documentation in order to begin the community together to talk about issues of social justice.


Keith on a List of Change

Keith recognizes the issue of “big money politics.” He calls for the US to move toward public financing of elections,  disclosing donors, and having bipartisan re-districting to end gerrymandering and ensure that every voice is heard.

Justice for Unfairly Displaced Tenured Teachers

My personal experience with “the gaps” is a sense of helplessness due to JOB INJUSTICE. I have been out of my tenured teaching position of 26 years since 2007 from a public school district that I volunteered and worked for since my teenage years.

Ironically, as a seasoned lifelong learner and community volunteer, I have not had full time work or taught in a classroom since Fall 2007. My personal displacement from the public schools is part of a silent, salient, historical phenomenon that the larger public is not aware of. According to a USA Today April 2004 article by Greg Toppo, “the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation decision set precedent for the “decimation” of Black teachers.”
From K-12 educators and administrators, to college professors, though tenured, through pseudo evaluations, “school turnarounds,” downsizing, layoffs, and other questionable means,

Black educators have experienced unfair terminations or demotions. Most institutional entities such as the unions, courts and EEOC have dismissed their legal complaints. Civic, faith, and labor organizations tend not support these caring, dedicated professionals either. Like nursing, teaching is a women’s profession and many Black women are single parents. Hence, the loss of tenured teaching and union jobs is a severe economic injustice that impacts wellbeing of children and the entire extended families.

Dear Nuns in the bus, please help give a voice in overturning the unjust dismissals of 80,000 to 100,000 teachers of color nationwide including the 20,000 in Chicago and 7,000 in New Orleans – mostly black teachers who have been demoted, dismissed, or displaced in the past 20, 25 years.

Thank you for your Great Work of Justice!

Amanda’s Fight for 15

Amanda has been involved in the Fight for 15 for the last two years.

She’s been struggling since before she joined the Fight for 15- she was making minimum wage and it has only become harder in the last couple years. She has two children and tries to remain optimistic- “positivity rocks on!” She’s still standing and fighting strong for her two children.

She knows that the Nuns on the Bus, and any of us, can see poverty all around us by driving down the street and visiting homeless shelters.