People of the Mountains: Life in Appalachia

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Caroline Smerdon
Member since April 29, 2016
  • 2 Posts

Two years ago, I went on a mission trip that opened my eyes to poverty in our own country, specifically in the picturesque Appalachian region. This region has suffered from poverty for far too long, and though the “War on Poverty” has been in practice for 50 years, there is no sign that it is getting any better.

Appalachian regions consistently continue to follow a downward trend, especially with the decline of the coal mining industry which their economy has relied on for so many years. And even as our economy continues to grow, theirs remains stagnant, especially when dealing with new technology. They are physically cut off from the rest of the country, with mountains and steep roads making things like internet difficult to receive. Though these conditions are not ideal by any means the people living in the Appalachians have developed a unique culture that is difficult for the average American to understand.

However, this culture combined with their lack of education and lower than average income have given them the harmful stereotype of “hillbillies” or “redneck.” Though our media portrays them as lazy, tobacco-chewing, overall-wearing coal miners, they are in desperate need of help. Through my experiences researching and my experiences working in Appalachia, I have gained a new understanding about the problems people living in poverty, but I have also been inspired by the resilience of the people who are able to have a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

The people of Appalachia are often torn apart by the media, shown as the “hillbilly” alcoholics and drug addicts that don’t work and live off welfare. However, though it is true this region has higher rates of drug abuse and alcoholism than the rest of the nation, these are not causes of poverty; rather, they are the symptoms that stem from a lack of education and opportunity. In my experience, the people of Appalachia are a community, with strong values and a strong willingness to help one another, and a strong pride in where they come from.

Through investing in these communities and providing improved education and a chance to excel, the children of Appalachia can finally break the cycle that has plagued their families since before Lyndon B. Johnson declared his “War on Poverty.”

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