Do Helping Hands in Appalachia Do More Harm Than Good?

By Fuchs, Lucy | National Catholic Reporter, June 2, 2006 | Go to article overview

Do Helping Hands in Appalachia Do More Harm Than Good?


Fuchs, Lucy, National Catholic Reporter


My husband, Frank, and I have just spent a year trying to serve the poor of Appalachia, well known as one of the less advantaged parts of this country. We came about this work from the outside in. About 10 years ago, we spent two years working with the poor in Mexico. During that time, NAFTA passed, the war in Chiapas started and the peso went down in value. We saw the poor in Mexico get poorer than ever.

We knew that the poverty in Mexico was not something we could fix through our small efforts. One thing Mexico needed was a change in the government, not a feat that we as outsiders could do. But we thought we might be able to help in our own country. So we returned home and spent a year in Washington, where we worked with policy groups. We had learned from practical experience that what happens in the United States directly impacts the lives of the poor in Mexico. Although we couldn't change the Mexican government, perhaps, we thought, we could do something to change our own.

I don't need to belabor how unsuccessful we were. The situation of the poor in Mexico, in all of Latin America and even in our own country has gotten worse, not better, in the past few years.

So at least, we thought then, we could do something for our own poor. To do this, we chose to work with an organization that has been in operation for a long time and has a respected reputation, the Christian Appalachian Project, started by Fr. Ralph BeRing back in 1964.

Christian Appalachian Project

When Fr. Beiting first came to Kentucky in the late '40s, he was appalled at how badly many people lived. At first, he just gave people food and clothing and arranged housing for them. Then he organized fundraising and gathered volunteers, trying to reach out to anyone in need, not only giving them help but trying to maintain their dignity.

In those days, the people of East Kentucky were either coal miners, disabled or unemployed, or on their way north or west out of the state. Fr. Beiting fell in love with the natural beauty of this part of the country and he genuinely loved the people. There were few Catholics in East Kentucky, and people were often suspicious of Catholics, especially Catholic priests, so he had to work to overcome that problem, too. He even took to street preaching to show that Catholics too were Christian, and he named his organization "Christian" (not "Catholic") Appalachian Project, making it clearly ecumenical, as it is today.

Things have changed dramatically since Fr. Beiting's initial work in the '40s and '50s. For one thing, President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964, and the front lines of the war were right in Appalachia. People came to Appalachia for many reasons. Some came to take pictures and write articles about the deprived mountain people sitting on their rickety porches while their dirty, raggedy children stayed home from school. Others came and volunteered their medical and educational help. But the most significant changes came through government aid in many forms.

These government programs probably helped some people, but ultimately they destroyed the spirit of the proud mountain residents, who used to disdain any outside aid. Today most observers will say that the single greatest harm to the Appalachian people can be said in one word: welfare.

Handouts or hand ups?

The word "welfare" is no longer used, but there are still many commodities and other forms of assistance given to the poor, and most people seem to like such assistance very much. This was perhaps one of the first things we learned as we got to know the East Kentuckians. People say, without embarrassment of any kind, that they "draw," meaning they receive government assistance. Others are appalled that with the new rules there is a time limit on such assistance. I have even heard some healthy people say they would like to be on disability just so that they would not have to work anymore. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Do Helping Hands in Appalachia Do More Harm Than Good?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.