Poverty; One Man's Crusade to Save Impoverished Children

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“My seven siblings and I lived in a state of constant crisis throughout our childhood and adolescent years. My abusive father battered our mother multiple times each week, and abused his sons and daughters at will. We lived in shacks that rented for $15 per month and we moved several times each year. We lived like itinerant refugees."

As child, I hid in a corner,and in a mantra-like chant, I shouted ‘It never happened,’all the while staring at my father as he beat my mother,over and over again, until one day I put a stop to at the age of 18.

Doug Wallace, author of the award winning memoir, Everything Will Be All Right (http://www.dougwallace.net/) vows to dedicate his life to fighting the war on poverty and, says Wallace, “My primary focus is helping children born into generational poverty.” The author says, “I was born in the rural south in a family that had been chained to a cycle of poverty for four consecutive generations.” The publisher, Greenleaf Book Group in Austin, Texas, describes Doug's childhood as follows: "Alcoholism and poverty destroyed the author’s childhood, but perseverance and ambition saved his life". Doug, now a multi-millionaire, believes his background and experience uniquely qualifies him to help the generationally poor. "It's critical that society reach out to the impoverished while they are still young," says Wallace. “Otherwise, we lose them to the streets."

The memoir tells the story of the author's life from birth to the age of twenty-three. Greenleaf Book Group says the following about Everything Will Be All Right on the book cover, "Abused by an alcoholic, unemployed father, Doug Wallace and his seven siblings barely survived childhood--fleeing in the night from landlords, scrambling for food, and burning down the only house they ever owned to collect insurance money." About the memoir, Wallace says, “My siblings and I were the poorest children in the classroom, indeed the whole school. As the third oldest child in the family, I could tell by the behavior of my classmate that we were rejected because of our poverty. They made fun of us because we couldn’t afford the cost of the school lunch (twenty-five cents) and the school principle made us mop the hallways to pay for our meal. We wore the same clothes to school every day. Treatment like that can affect the self-worth of a child at a very young age.”

The publisher describes the author's childhood on the book cover in vivid detail, "A raw testimony of a heartbreaking, hardscrabble childhood, Wallace’s memoir paints an unforgettable portrait of a child determined to free him from the cycle of poverty."

Wallace's memoir won the prestigious Indie Bound Next List Notable Award in December 2009 in the non-fiction category: (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781608320042/Douglas-Wallace/Everything-Will-Be-All-Right.)

The publisher also makes the following comment on the book cover: "With a genuine voice and keen eye on the class divide in America, the author unflinchingly reveals the painful experiences of class prejudice and life on the fringes of society." Wallace's memoir begins in Stewart County, TN and tells of his struggle to fight his way out of generational poverty in the 50’s and the 60’s. In the memoir, Wallace says he "learns to use every person, every situation, and every encounter as a teacher, to realize his dream and serve his community. Whether the teacher or the teachings were cruel or kind, the lesson, was always valuable."

The publisher also describes on the book cover of Everything Will Be All Right, that the memoir is "about one boy’s dream to overcome the unimaginable obstacles of poverty through tenacious will, relentless drive, and indomitable faith." Wallace adds, "There is no easy escape from the culture of poverty. Even after selling my company in 1999 to Synovus Corporation and becoming a multi-millionaire, I still struggled with the baggage of my past."

“My seven siblings and I lived in constant crisis throughout our childhood and adolescent years. My abusive father battered our mother multiple times each week, and abused his sons and daughters at will. As a small child, I hid in a corner in a fetal position and in a mantra-like chant, repeated ‘It never happened,’ over and over again, all the while watching my father beat my mother. But, it did happen again, over and over again, until I put a stop to it at the age of eighteen,” says Wallace.

Wallace adds, “My siblings and I lacked the support systems at home to learn how to behave in mainstream society. Our mother was too drained to provide the nourishment that the middle class school children received in their homes. As a result we had to learn everything the hard way.”

In his memoir Wallace tells the story of living in a neighborhood where police are frequently called to break up domestic violence at a neighbor’s house, and in many occasions at his own home. “The coda to this nightmare scene was watching the police remove the handcuffs from my father’s hands, and then release him, with nothing more than a verbal warning. I would lay in bed and listen to my father brag to my mother how foolish she was to get the police involved in the first place, because after they left, she would be at his mercy once again,” says Wallace in the memoir.

Wallace's success at overcoming poverty has not stopped his participation in the war on poverty, especially children born into generational poverty. His foundation S-KuRVE (Saving Kids Underserved by Reinforcing Values Every day, works with community leaders, Big Brothers, and church organizations to help children find appropriate role models. "Society can do so much more to fight the war on poverty, says Wallace. It's not always about money. What the war on poverty needs most are more volunteers to act as role models, “says Wallace. Wallace believes that impoverished children are in desperate need of the sustained attention and guidance of qualified role models. Says Wallace, I joined the Job Corps in 1967 and their team of role models taught us the hidden rules of the middle class. They taught us how to function in mainstream society. I know for a fact it works, because I owe it to the Job Corps that I was able to escape."

"Imagine a child trying to do home work without lights and heat in the home, or lacking proper nourishment and staying constantly hungry,” says Wallace. “Can we really expect this child to behave normally in a classroom that functions according to a set of middle class values, values and behavior that are completely unfamiliar to poverty victims? I learned the hard way, from the first day at school; I encountered rejection, not only from my classmates, but from some of my teachers. My behavior, my clothes, and my language, labeled me," adds Wallace.

Wallace says his first introduction to a role model from the middle class society was the school teacher. "The teacher lacked the knowledge of the hidden rules of the poverty class, or the details of what life was like for members of my family at home," says Wallace.

In his memoir, Wallace says, "My siblings and I learned everything we knew about socializing from our parents. What we didn't know, is that we were being taught the hidden rules of behavior among the poverty class, behavior that was not acceptable in the middle class." Speaking of his time in the Job Corps, Wallace says, "In order to change behavior, the Job Corps made the effort to know the unique circumstances of each child. Their approach was that no two children are alike. The Job Corps taught me that poverty has to be challenged at the individual level. Support systems have to be able to address the needs of the individual child,"

"Role models were scarce among my flesh and blood," says Wallace, "And those that were willing to help in the past were often fed up with the broken promises, unpaid debts, and unreliable behavior of my father." “I learned the hard way that when one member of the family makes it out of poverty, it only complicates the relationship with family members left behind," says Wallace. It caused us to grow apart,” he adds. Speaking of family members left behind, Wallace says, "They lacked the role models to teach them any other way. With the hurdles to economic success being so hard to scale, many of my family members decided, at a young age, that they want no part of the other life, the middle class, and simply refused to jump through the hoops to get there. Without role models it impossible to escape poverty, and there was nothing I could do to help my family, because I was involved in my own personal struggle to escape poverty at the same time as were they."

Wallace hopes his memoir will help inspire impoverished children to resist the temptation for immediate gratification, and instead seek out role models to provide the necessary support systems they will need to cope with the middle class rules that will enable them to merge with mainstream society.

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