Empty Frames Initiative
"We believe everyone is created with a purpose. Our current project focuses on empowering youth aging out of state care in Eastern Europe. We want to provide counseling, training in life skills, and access to a supportive community. We are looking to challenge cultural paradigms, by shifting perspectives and inviting people to take part in filling empty frames." - The Empty Frames Initiative. Find out more here. (PS-Their Web Site is awesome)
Like most of us, Mariam Cobb has her own unique story of what has driven her to do development work. Mariam's story is mostly related to her Christian faith. She feels that God has been putting the desire in her heart to care for the orphans and the fatherless for a long time. This desire especially grew during an internship in Latvia where she worked with youth camps in the inner city. She realized that this is not just what God had called Christian's to do but was what she knew she was called to do with her life. She is now doing her best to meet the needs of orphaned youth that she has so clearly seen. "In Eastern Europe, and around the world, youth aging out of state care are put into vulnerable positions" (Empty Frames Initiative). Empty Frames Initiative seeks to help orphans in Eastern Europe as they face homelessness, suicide, human trafficking, and other challenges by connecting them to community, mentoring them, and teaching them life skills. This is done by connecting them to both churches and businesses. The organization aims to partner with churches both in Eastern Europe and in the United States. The US partnership will be able to provide funding, support, and occasional volunteer hands while the churches in Eastern Europe will also be able to provide support and volunteer hands as well as a stable base for the youth as they re-enter into society. They are still in their early stages of becoming an NGO and are currently working to obtain their 501c3. Currently, their funding mainly comes from individuals and churches. After obtaining their 501c3, they are first going to test out their initiative within the United States before taking it over to Eastern Europe.
The Empty Frames Initiative has seen a generational cycle in Eastern Europe that has the potential to be broken, but first needs to be addressed. They are anxious to address this cycle by impacting the lives of orphans by helping them find love and identity through the love that Christ has for them and by re-purposing abandoned buildings from the Soviet Era in Eastern Europe to be used for the betterment of the community and in the lives of these orphans.
Edison Lin is a Law Student at Emory University whom has had the opportunity to study the Vulnerability Theory under Law Professor, Martha Fineman (learn more about her work here). He now seeks to promote the vulnerability theory.
This previous summer, Edison had the opportunity to join a GHI practicum team to Vietnam. The purpose of this project was to work with survivors of domestic violence, gender based violence, interpersonal violence, and intimate partner violence. They worked with CCIHP, a local Hanoi-based NGO, which orchestrated different community development programs such as condemn testing, work with male sex workers, HIV initiatives, teen reproductive rights, community forums, and trainings. The deliverables of their GHI project was a SWT (Strengths, Weaknesses, and Threats) analysis of the NGO, brainstorming different solution types, developing a monitoring and evaluating project, and preparing grant proposal information for the NGO. In this project, Edison was able to implement his study of the Vulnerability Theory.
Vulnerability: What we want from society, from a state.
As part of the project Edison worked to apply this definition of vulnerability to Vietnam's legal system. The report he was able to put together on this topic turned out to be helpful knowledge to the NGO.
Martha Fineman premises the idea that currently we have a trend towards the neoliberal agendas. Our laws and way that we structure our societal resources are based on an idea of an autonomous subject. There is a lacking of "especially vulnerable" language. The vulnerability theory leads to an idea of universal vulnerability and resilience building being a state function. The idea of having a responsive state. Vulnerability theory is aimed to identify differential ways in which we identify and treat these different resilience building functions. The theory assumes that everyone is vulnerable. We all have a dependency. At some point in our life, we may think we are less vulnerable due to wealth, status, etc but everyone was once a child and will one day be elderly. We all have some sense of dependency and vulnerability at any stage of our life. The theory is basically trying to say that everyone as humans is vulnerable and it is the role of the state to try and identify that vulnerability and build resilience to that vulnerability. Currently, the burden of these vulnerabilities are being shifted to someone but are these shifts equitable?
The vulnerability theory is a theory and practice that definitely crosses boundaries.
It's application to the Master's in Development Practice: We can apply this concept of a "responsive state". The concept that a state has proportional presence and does have obligations to situations where vulnerabilities are hindered.
How to implement the vulnerability theory: Priming and incentives (both hard and soft law approaches) are two options as well as conditional mandates.
In summary: The theory, by placing individuals in a universal position of "vulnerable", rather than singling out identity traits that obscure and divide the responsibilities of the state to respond to vulnerability, it emphasizes the obligations of the state to support and equalize access to resilience-building measures. This has practical normative implications in a wide-range of societal issues, from welfare, education, criminal justice, gender relations, and many others.