Surprised by Hope - Cam Ostrow


Today's guest blog was written by Cam Ostrow, an organizer for the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  She has recently been working to promote the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference, a national conference aimed at equipping students with the tools to combat poverty in their own communities.   Watching the trailer for Dogtown Redemption, I think what was most surprising to me was precisely how surprised I was by it. It was not the images of extreme poverty or devastating hunger that surprised me, and it wasn’t even the statements on the near pariah status of so many homeless individuals in their communities – those were the things I expected. Instead, what surprised me about the trailer was the message of redemption and hope at the root of each individual speaking and ultimately at the heart of the film.

I’ve been working on issues of homelessness and hunger since I was in high school, from leading campaigns like Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity, to my work right now with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  After so many years, I am no longer shocked when I hear facts about the abuse suffered by homeless individuals at the hands of local police, and I barely flinch when someone points out how racism is central to the system that keeps poverty in place. Of course, seeing the spread of hunger and homelessness both nationally and internationally continues to devastate and move me. But still, these images do not surprise me: I understand that they are real and immediate and I have come to accept them even despite my yearn for them to change.

As a 22 year old recent college graduate, I am aware that I have grown up amongst a generation of activists who are preoccupied with what we cannot change.  We are hopeless pessimists, and we whole-heartedly believe that the system has screwed us along with everyone around us.  And maybe in some ways it has, but watching the trailer for Dogtown Redemption’s reminded me that I must have gotten into this fight believing that I could change something – believing that somehow, even knowing everything that was wrong with the world, there was hope for the future.  The film inspires me because it reminds me that I do not need to be surprised by a message of hope amongst images of poverty. What I need to continue my activism is to believe that somewhere out there, there is redemption for those who have been systematically thrown into poverty, and I need to believe that even when it seems like this work is unending, there is always the promise of positive change.

This was particularly helpful to my work on the 2013 Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference, which is the largest gathering of students and activists coming together to work on issues of hunger and homelessness in the country.  The conference is about learning how and why poverty has come to exist the way it does and impact certain communities the way it does – but it’s also about learning what we can do to change it.  To me, despite all of the horrifying instances of poverty which the conference will undoubtedly address, it is ultimately a hopeful event where students can take a moment to look past the infinite obstacles that await us move forward in the fight to resolve poverty.

-Cam Ostrow