Creating Change through Poverty Education

“One time,” Brenda shares, “we had an elected official who went through the workshop and, a little while after attending, she called us to share that she had voted differently on a childcare bill. Attending the workshop changed how she saw things and that impacted the way she voted.”  Brenda Nichols has served as the Poverty Education Director at Access for the past five years. It’s the feedback like this from participants whose views have changed and who are motivated to take action that have encouraged Brenda over the years.

We are celebrating Brenda this month, as she is moving on from her position to new things ahead. She started as a volunteer in 2003 before becoming the director in 2014. Emma Garcia, Co-Executive Director of Access shares, “Brenda has been a tremendous leader of Access’ Poverty Education work for the last five years. Brenda’s leadership has helped thousands of workshop participants understand the realities of poverty; her impact has been great and we are thankful for her work and legacy with us.” Brenda has led over 100 Poverty Education workshops since serving as the Director. 

The Poverty Education Workshop informs participants about the intricate realities of life in poverty. It is designed to provide insight into the barriers faced by low-income individuals through role playing the lives of various family types experiencing poverty. Through this, participants overcome misconceptions about poverty and are motivated to become involved in activities that promote justice in our communities. In the past year Access has led over 20 workshops- at hospitals, in schools, for government officials, and churches. Just over 1,000 people participated in those workshops, with 94% reporting that they have increased sensitivity and compassion related to issues of poverty because of the workshop. 

Brenda is grateful for the changes people have made because of attending the workshop, but it is also clear that she loves the staff she has had the opportunity work with. She has been grateful for the community that has developed among the 30+ poverty education workshop staff members. In order to be one of the paid staff members who help host our workshops, you have to have experienced poverty yourself. Staffers who are willing to share their own stories graciously provide meaningful insight for workshop participants. They have grown together, “almost like a family,” Brenda says. In times of hardship staffers have come together to show support for one another. Some of her favorite times have been when they’ve traveled out of town together to host a workshop, creating an opportunity to get to know one another even more. We’re grateful that the Poverty Education Workshops are able to be a source of income for staffers, while also creating a supportive community.

We encourage you to leave a story, or share a comment about how Brenda’s work has impacted you below! We’re so thankful for all she has done. Poverty Education Workshops will continue! If you’re interested in learning more about Poverty Education Workshops and/or hosting one, email us at info@accessofwestmichigan.org and we’ll be glad to help.

2 thoughts on “Creating Change through Poverty Education

  1. Thank you , Brenda, for your service to our community. Your willingness to share your own story has inspired hundreds of others to consider how they can be agents of change in their corner of the world. You will be missed and we wish you God’s blessings on your next journey

  2. Brenda has been a blessing to everyone who meets her. She has done an AMAZING job with the Poverty Simulations and bringing us all together as a family, not just people working the simulations. When there is a need in our family, Brenda makes sure the words gets out. She has always gone above and beyond the call of duty. She is a friends to each of us. We are all VERY blessed to have known Brenda and she will be missed immensely. Her personal story is a tough one to heard, but she has persevered and God brought her to us for a reason. I personally will miss Brenda’s smiling face and cheery attitude. I love and miss you already. Thanks for being here for me through the rough times. LOVE YOU my friend.

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